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Boris Johnson looks set to impose the strictest coronavirus restrictions in England on nearly 3 million people in Greater Manchester after a last-ditch attempt to strike a deal ended without agreement.
The communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced that the negotiations had ended after several hours of fraught negotiations came down to a dispute over about £5m – or £1.78 for each Greater Manchester resident – in funding, the Guardian understands.
In a statement nearly two and a half hours after the midday deadline set by the government on Monday night, Jenrick said: “I’m disappointed that despite recognising the gravity of the situation, the mayor of Greater Manchester has been unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control in Greater Manchester and reach an agreement with the government.
“I have therefore advised the prime minister that these discussions have concluded without an agreement.”
The extraordinary development brought to an end an increasingly fractious 11-day standoff between Johnson’s government and northern leaders, severely undermining the core purpose of the three-tier lockdown system that was designed to simplify the rollout of restrictions across England.
It means scores of pubs, bars, betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres and soft play areas will close in Greater Manchester for at least 28 days. It is not clear when this will come into force.
The talks dramatically collapsed barely two hours before the prime minister was set to hold a Downing Street press conference announcing the restrictions.
It is understood Jenrick abandoned the negotiations after several hours of haggling with Andy Burnham, the Greater Manchester mayor, and his 10 council leaders, after setting a deadline of midday on Tuesday to reach a deal.
The government had offered Greater Manchester a £60m support package. However, this fell £15m short of the proposal put forward by Burnham and the council leaders earlier in the day.
The Greater Manchester leaders agreed to reduce their request to £65m but this was rejected by Jenrick shortly after 2pm, effectively killing the negotiations.
Johnson has repeatedly insisted it was vitally important to agree a deal with local leaders to ensure their support for the strict public health measures and to improve compliance.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Greater Manchester to get tier 3 Covid restrictions imposed after talks fail | World news