The government has been accused of “waging war” against Greater Manchester after the region’s mayor found out from the media that it had been put in Tier 3 lockdown.
Boris Johnson has imposed tough coronavirus restrictions on Greater Manchester after talks with the region ended in acrimony and chaotic scenes.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham was giving a press conference on Tuesday when he discovered the government had refused to meet his demand for £65m to support the livelihoods of people in the region as they face the closure of pubs, bars, bookmakers and other premises.
Burnham, the former Labour cabinet minister, was shown a phone screen by Manchester City Council leader Richard Leese that appeared to suggest the area would be put into tier 3 at 12.01am on Friday, and Burnham was told the message said ”£20m only and they’re going to try to pick off individual councils”.
“It is brutal. This is no way to run the country in a national crisis,” Burnham said after a pause.
“Grinding people down. Try to get people to accept the least they can get away with.”
It was unclear how much money the region would get.
Addressing reporters, Burnham said leaders of the authorities in Greater Manchester had originally wanted £90m – £15m a month until the end of the financial year – to protect incomes for people forced out of work.
They reduced that sum eventually to £65m, but ministers would only offer £60m.
The prime minister then confirmed a £22m sum as he announced the new restrictions at a Downing Street press conference, and repeatedly dodged questions about what additional support the region would get – if any.
Following the announcement, 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.”
Burnham said £65m was the “bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship” over a “punishing” winter.
“That is what we believe we needed to prevent poverty, to prevent hardship, to prevent homelessness. Those were the figures that we had – not what we wanted – but what we needed to prevent all of those things from happening.”
The mayor accused the government of walking away from the talks, saying: “At no point today were we offered enough to protect the poorest people in our communities through the punishing reality of the winter to come.
“Even now, I am still willing to do a deal but it cannot be on the terms that the government offered today.”