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The government could soon reach a deal with Greater Manchester that would put the region into the top level of coronavirus rules, the communities secretary, Robert Jenrick, has said, saying the “contours of an agreement” are in place.
But this was rejected by Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, who said he had still seen no sign of sufficient support for businesses and low-paid workers who will be hit by the new restrictions. “Nothing has changed, as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Striking a more consensual tone after Michael Gove accused the Greater Manchester mayor, Burnham, of risking lives with “posturing”, Jenrick said he would be having talks with local council leaders on Monday.
The Treasury is offering Greater Manchester a financial package worth tens of millions of pounds, in line with those agreed by leaders in Lancashire and Merseyside where bars, pubs and other venues have closed under tier 3 restrictions.
Treasury sources have played down reports that a deal with Burnham could be sealed by offering Greater Manchester a better package than given to other tier 3 areas.
“I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement, but I think we do need to conclude this now,” Jenrick told Sky News. “There has been a sense of uncertainty, which isn’t helpful to people living in Greater Manchester.”
He added: “We are going to be having further discussions today with the council leaders from across Greater Manchester and I am hopeful that we can reach an agreement. The contours of an agreement are there.
“But, as I say, every side needs to now come together and reach an amicable conclusion for the sake of people in Greater Manchester.”
Jenrick said he had offered “a range of different things that local leaders would like, whether that’s greater control over local tracing, whether it is use of the armed forces, whether it is more resources for local councils”.
But he also indicated that the additional money would not be a better deal than given to other places: “We’ve offered further resources, and you can see very clearly from the resources given to Merseyside and to Lancashire, with whom we’ve worked well in recent weeks, the sort of package that we’re willing to offer to Greater Manchester.”
But also speaking to Sky, Burnham said he was still seeking a government package that would give people who lose their incomes because of the new rules 80% of their usual wages, rather than the two-thirds on offer.
He said: “It’s not about the size of the cheque, it’s about protecting low-paid workers, people who are self-employed, and supporting businesses, protecting them from collapsing.
“That isn’t there at the moment. If the government recognises that, and comes forward with a plan that protects those low-paid workers, protects people who are self-employed, protects freelancers, then of course, that is what this has all been about. But they haven’t presented that yet.”
On Sunday, Burnham wrote to Boris Johnson, Keir Starmer and other Westminster leaders urging them to hold a parliamentary vote to decide a national level of financial aid for all areas under tier 3 restrictions.
He told Sky: “Tier 3, I think, should have a fair financial framework, set out and endorsed by parliament, so that anyone in our position knows what they’re going into if they’re going into tier 3. At the moment it’s like side deals with local areas.”
Burnham held a one-to-one call with Sir Ed Lister, the prime minister’s chief strategic adviser, on Sunday afternoon. The meeting was described as “constructive”, though it is understood there were no significant concessions from the government.
The region’s MPs and council leaders – including 10 Conservatives – have expressed serious concerns about the financial support on offer, with local officials calculating a £62m gap between the government proposal and the required level of support for businesses and residents.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Manchester Covid restrictions: government close to deal, says Jenrick | World news