Talks over tougher coronavirus restrictions for Greater Manchester have ended without agreement, raising the prospect that Boris Johnson will now enforce measures including the closure of pubs against the will of local leaders.
A meeting of Greater Manchester leaders with local government secretary Robert Jenrick is understood to have ended “very abruptly” as the government resisted mayor Andy Burnham’s demand for more financial support for businesses and workers.
Mr Johnson has said that he wants to move Manchester into the toughest tier of his regional alert system with the co-operation of local leaders, but is ready to overrule them if agreement cannot be reached.
Downing Street described the failure to reach agreement as “disappointing” but refused to say whether the prime minister was now poised to intervene, saying only that the government was “considering next steps”.
Greater Manchester sources said that they left an hour-long meeting with Mr Jenrick “feeling like the government wanted the talks to fail”, after talks with officials earlier in the day gave them hope of an improved offer.
Mr Burnham is insisting on support for the thousands of workers who could lose income if Manchester follows Merseyside and Lancashire into tier 3, forcing pubs, bars and other businesses are forced to close. He wants a furlough payment worth 80 per cent of wages, rather than the 67 per cent on offer from chancellor Rishi Sunak.
A government spokesperson said: “A meeting between government and local leaders in Greater Manchester has concluded this afternoon following discussions throughout last week, over the weekend and this morning on measures necessary to protect the public.
"Disappointingly, we have still not been able to reach an agreement. This is particularly concerning against the backdrop of rising cases and hospitalisations in Greater Manchester. We are carefully considering next steps.”