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Covid-19: Talks to resume over Greater Manchester restrictions

Talks are to resume on whether Greater Manchester will enter the highest level of Covid restrictions, after leaders in the region said better financial support was needed.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said he had a "constructive call" with the PM's team on Sunday.

Treasury sources have indicated extra support could be made available.

It comes as the Welsh Government is due to announce whether it will introduce a two-week national lockdown.

The cabinet will meet this morning to make a final decision over a so-called circuit-breaker, after considering advice from experts with First Minister Mark Drakeford expected to make an announcement shortly after midday.

 

A further 16,982 people tested positive for the virus in the UK as of Sunday, the Department of Health figures showed, with a further 67 deaths occurring within 28 days of a positive test.

The dispute over which tier of restrictions Greater Manchester should be in intensified on Friday after Boris Johnson said that he might "need to intervene" if local leaders did not accept a move to tier three curbs.

But Mr Burnham wants the government to re-introduce the 80% furlough scheme used previously in the pandemic to support the low paid affected by tier three closures.

He said businesses that will be closed under tier three - pubs, bookies and gyms - "are places where people are on low wages".

BBC deputy political editor Vicki Young said Treasury sources insisted there would not be a more generous offer on wages but pointed to other financial support packages agreed with Liverpool and Lancashire.

On Sunday, Liverpool City Region's metro mayor Steve Rotherham said his area would receive an additional £44m and a similar package worth £42m was given to local leaders in Lancashire last week.

BBC political correspondent Iain Watson said a package of around £75m for Greater Manchester would be roughly equivalent to the packages agreed for Liverpool City Region and Lancashire, based on population size.

In a letter to the PM and other party leaders released before he had spoken to Mr Johnson's chief strategic adviser Sir Edward Lister on Sunday, Mr Burnham said Parliament should hold an urgent debate to end the deadlock.

He said the prospect of tier three restrictions on hospitality and other areas "is not just a Greater Manchester issue".

He wrote: "Establishing clear national entitlements of the kind we had during the first lockdown will create a sense of fairness which in turn would help build public support for, and compliance with, any new restrictions."

The Greater Manchester mayor has received some support from within Tory ranks, including from Sir Graham Brady, the influential chairman of Conservative backbenchers' group the 1922 committee.

Sir Graham, MP for Altrincham and Sale West in Greater Manchester, said the region's Labour and Tory MPs were "pretty united" in resisting tier three restrictions, adding that positive tests were "flattening".

But five other Tory MPs in Greater Manchester have written to Mr Burnham to oppose Labour's support of a circuit-breaker in favour of local measures.

One of the letter's signatories, James Daly, who has also resisted Greater Manchester being put into tier three, said a circuit-breaker would be "disastrous" for the economy.

Mr Daly, who is MP for Bury North, told Radio 4's Today programme that while all of Greater Manchester's MPs were "united" in wanting to do the best for their constituents, they needed better communication from Mr Burnham who had not "reached out" to them ahead of talks with the government.

Source: BBC

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