A row between local leaders in Greater Manchester and central government has been rumbling for days, amid an impasse over whether to place the region into a tier 3 coronavirus lockdown. The two sides have been holding talks to try and bridge the divide.
What does the government want?
Boris Johnson wants to impose a tier 3 lockdown on Greater Manchester to combat a recent rise in coronavirus cases.
The prime minister warned on Friday the infection rate had “doubled in the last nine days” and urgent action was needed.
Under the “very high” alert level, the strictest restrictions in the three tier system, people from different households will not be allowed to mix, pubs and bars not serving food will be forced to close and residents will be told not to travel outside the area.
Instead it wants to target measures where cases are rising locally. Communities secretary Robert Jenrick told the BBC on Monday morning a national lockdown would have an unfair and “very significant” economic and health impact.
“The argument for a national circuit-breaker is not one that I, personally, find, at all persuasive,” he said.
“This is to apply on a blanket level – the same approach in Nottingham, the city which my constituency is next to, where the number of cases today is well over 700, to Somerset or Herefordshire, where the number of cases per 100,000 is below 40.”
What does Andy Burnham want?
The Labour mayor of Greater Manchester, with the support of local Tory MPs, has resisted the government’s plan to impose tier 3.
Burnham has argued any strict lockdown must be matched with an increase in financial support for people and businesses.
He has demanded the Treasury bring back a level of support that existed during the first national lockdown in March for anywhere under the “very high” alert level.
The measures he has asked for include:
- A furlough scheme for all affected workers covering 80% of an employee’s regular wage or at least the national minimum wage.
- A self-employed income support scheme set at 80% of average monthly income.
- An improved compensation scheme for businesses directly or indirectly impacted based on the national scheme on rateable values.
The government’s current approach also means different regions of the country under the same lockdown tier can have slightly different rules as well as different financial support packages from central government.
Burnham, with the support of other local leaders, has called for one single national support package rather than “side deals with local areas”. He wants an “urgent debate and vote” in the Commons.
He has said “clear national entitlements” similar to during the first lockdown are essential to create the “sense of fairness” to ensure compliance with new restrictions.
Will it be resolved?
Ministers do not need Burnham’s approval to impose a tier 3 lockdown and could introduce the stricter measures without it.
Jenrick told Times Radio on Monday morning any further talks today would have to be the “final discussions”.
“I think we do need now to bring this to a conclusion,” he said.
All eyes will be on health secretary Matt Hancock when he delivers a statement to MPs at around 4.30pm.