Boris Johnson Says Manchester Councils Will Get £60m Lockdown Support

Arj Singh
·Deputy Political Editor, HuffPost UK
·3-min read

Boris Johnson has confirmed Greater Manchester councils will get £60m in government support for entering the highest level of coronavirus restrictions from Friday.

The prime minister said the money, which the city’s mayor Andy Burnham turned down on Tuesday in the hope of getting a minimum of £65m, would be “distributed to the boroughs of Greater Manchester” to help support people through a minimum of 28 days of tier 3 restrictions, including pub closures.

Labour had accused Johnson of “punishing” the city on Tuesday after he suggested just £22m of business support would go to the city, with the £60m package seemingly in jeopardy after talks with Burnham ended without agreement.

Johnson’s confirmation that the £60m will go to the city goes beyond the government’s previous suggestion that it simply remains “on the table”.

But the PM’s comments on Wednesday also suggested the money would be divided up among the city’s councils, rather than being overseen by the mayor.

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick later confirmed that his officials were ready to speak to Manchester councils, rather than the mayor, to decide how the money is allocated.

Burnham had accused the government of a “deliberate act of levelling down” and “playing poker” with the city after Johnson initially offered less cash support.

At prime minister’s questions, Labour leader Keir Starmer accused Johnson of “bargaining with people’s lives”.

Starmer urged Johnson to end his “corrosive” approach which results in “local battles” for cash and instead support a Labour motion for a national criteria to resolve such matters.

He told the Commons: “This is a prime minister who can pay £7,000 a day for consultants on track and trace, which isn’t working, can find £43m for a garden bridge that was never built, but he can’t find £5m for the people of Greater Manchester.

“I really think the prime minister has crossed a Rubicon here, not just with the miserly way that he’s treated Greater Manchester, but the grubby ‘take it or leave it’ way these local deals are being done.

“It’s corrosive to public trust to pit region against region, mayor against mayor, council against council, asking them to trade away their businesses and jobs.”

Johnson said he is “proud” of the government’s support to the entire country, adding: “I think it’s the height of absurdity that he stands up and attacks the economic consequences of the measures we’re obliged to take across some parts of the country when he wants to turn the lights out with a full national lockdown.”

A raft of different areas were weighing up whether they too would enter the “Very High Risk” status of the highest tier of restrictions.

No.10 sources said that talks between the government and council leaders in Teesside and Tyne and Wear had been “paused” because local infection rates appeared to have improved.

Negotiations were taking place on Wednesday at the level of officials, rather than ministers, between the government and Nottinghamshire leaders.

Although contact has been made with West Yorkshire leaders about Tier 3, no talks haveyet started.

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This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.