Covid: Tier 3 restrictions set to be imposed on Greater Manchester

The highest tier of Covid restrictions is expected to be imposed on Greater Manchester after talks over financial support broke down.

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said local leaders had asked for £65m but would now get less than £60m.

The “very high” alert level — or tier three — means pubs and bars not serving food must close, and there will be extra restrictions on household mixing.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to hold a press conference at 17:00 BST.

That will be followed by a statement in the House of Commons from Health Secretary Matt Hancock at 19:00.

It comes after 10 days of talks between the government and local leaders — including mayors and MPs — over moving Greater Manchester’s 2.8 million population from tier two to the highest restrictions.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the “collapse of the talks” was a “sign of government failure”.

Greater Manchester’s mayor, Andy Burnham, is to hold a press conference shortly.

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  • Latest reaction as Greater Manchester prepares to join Tier 3

Greater Manchester is currently under tier two rules, meaning pubs and restaurants must close at 22:00, there is no household mixing indoors and the rule of six applies outdoors.

Under tier three rules — currently only applied to Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region — pubs and bars not serving substantial meals have to close, household mixing is banned both indoors and outdoors, and there is guidance against travelling in or out of the area.

The BBC understands Greater Manchester was offered £60m of central government to help support businesses under the new Tier 3 limits — but in a conversation with the prime minister, Mayor Andy Burnham suggested it was not possible to accept less than £65m.

Greater Manchester leaders originally submitted a request for £90m, which had been costed by a former Treasury official. On Tuesday morning they discussed £75m with government officials, which would have covered the period until the end of the financial year.

It’s understood that Boris Johnson and Mr Burnham discussed a figure of £60m but were unable to agree. Ministers were reluctant to set a precedent of giving one region more, proportionately, than another, especially given ongoing talks with several other parts of the country which could also face tougher restrictions.

A Greater Manchester source said: “We had costed what people needed. Rather than give us what people needed, they were only willing to give us what they would offer.”

But government sources have suggested Mr Burnham was intransigent, with one saying: “Other local leaders in GM were more reasonable and constructive but Burnham was too proud to make a deal.”

In response, a Greater Manchester source said there had been “unanimity” and accused the government of “trying to grind us into submission”.

It is now not clear what financial support the region will receive. After 10 days of talks (of a kind) and billions spent during this crisis, it is quite something that the deal fell over down to a gap of £5m.

Earlier, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said Mr Burnham had been “unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control”.

He added: “I have therefore advised the prime minister that these discussions have concluded without an agreement.”

Responding to the news, Sir Keir said: “The Conservatives have been treating local communities, particularly in the Midlands, North West and North East, and their leaders with contempt.

“Labour recognise the need for stricter public health restrictions. However, that must be accompanied by extra financial support.”

William Wragg, Conservative MP for Hazel Grove in Greater Manchester, tweeted that the “sense of failure” was “overwhelming”.

He added: “I shall avoid political comment until I have heard Matt Hancock’s statement in House of Commons this evening.”