Boris Johnson is “punishing” Greater Manchester by cutting £60m in government lockdown support cash to £22m because local leaders rejected the deal, MPs have said.
The prime minister faced anger from Tory and Labour MPs after he confirmed at a Downing Street press conference he would intervene and impose tier 3 restrictions on the area with just £22m offered to help struggling firms.
Labour MPs branded the deal an “utter disgrace” and said Johnson “appears to be waging war on the people of Greater Manchester” during the Covid-19 crisis.
It comes after talks with mayor Andy Burnham and other local leaders had collapsed on Tuesday, and the area will now see pubs, betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres, and soft play areas shut down.
Earlier, at a press conference in Manchester flanked by other council leaders, Burnham said the city faced a “winter of real hardship”.
The former health secretary said Johnson was behind a “deliberate act of levelling down”, adding that city officials had calculated £65m was “needed” but Downing Street had offered just £60m.
Johnson, however, appeared to confirm just £22m of business support would go to the city, leading to a string of claims Johnson had turned his back on the area’s residents. Conservative MP Chris Green, who represents Bolton West, was among the Conservatives angry with the government over the new lockdown.
He wrote on Facebook: “The government believes that three weeks of closing pubs and soft play centres will make a dramatic difference. It hasn’t and it won’t.
“I am disappointed that this lockdown has been imposed and I don’t believe the science supports this action. I think the health and economic impact will be damaging to our community but we have to do all we can to respect these rules since they have been imposed.
Pointing to Liverpool’s £30m deal for its tier 3 restrictions, Johnson said the £22m was part of a “comprehensive package of support”, adding his “door was open” to more talks.
He said: “Obviously we want to do more, but for the sake of fairness the deal has to be in line with the agreements we reached with Lancashire and Merseyside, where we have made progress.”
Burnham said the government was “playing poker” over the funding settlement and cut the £60m original offer down at the last minute.
Accusing the government of a “deliberate act of levelling down”, he said: “It’s brutal, to be honest. This is no way to run a country in a national crisis.
“It’s not right, they should not be doing this.”
Confusion, meanwhile, reigned over how the £22m was calculated and what, if any, of the “additional support” Johnson had promised would emerge.
Labour’s Manchester Central MP Lucy Powell tweeted: “It’s an utter disgrace that businesses and workers in GM won’t get an extra penny from government to support them in tier 3.
“Andy is right: it’s utter spite. The idea of all in this together has been totally shattered this week.”
Wigan MP and shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy tweeted: “In ten years in Parliament I’ve never seen anything like this.
“MPs are on a call with the health secretary being told Greater Manchester is getting only £22m while our mayor is at a press conference being told by the media. This is bad faith, it’s immoral – just disgraceful.
“We were told £22m is for test and trace, not a single extra penny promised to help businesses and minimum wage workers.
“The government appears to be waging war on the people of Greater Manchester. I grew up under Thatcher but I’ve honestly never seen anything like this.”