Greater Manchester has been given a deadline of midday today (20 October) to settle a deal with the government over moving into Tier 3 restrictions.
If an agreement is not reached by 12pm, the region is likely to be upgraded to the ‘very high’ risk category unilaterally.
After ten days of negotiations, the latest meeting between Greater Manchester leaders and government ministers on Monday (19 October) resulted in yet another deadlock.
Now, with patience running thin on both sides, Greater Manchester appears set to move into Tier 3 this week.
But the question remains as to what type of deal leaders will get.
Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said that “urgent action” was required to improve a “deteriorating” health situation in Manchester, pointing to rising numbers of hospitalisations in the area.
However, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and Manchester City Council Leader Sir Richard Leese said the government was using “selective” data, and argued that “Greater Manchester’s ICU occupancy rate is not abnormal for this time of year.”
In a statement on Monday evening, they clarified: “We are not complacent about the position in our hospitals and are monitoring the situation closely. But in the current situation, we believe it is essential that our residents are given clear, accurate information about the state of the NHS in Greater Manchester and that public fears are not raised unnecessarily.”
Since the beginning of the tier saga, local leaders have repeatedly campaigned for improved support that matched the kind seen in March under national lockdown.
This would include 80% of wages covered for staff for the self-employed.
Places such as pubs, bars, gyms, bookies, casinos, barbers, and salons could all potentially be closed under Tier 3 restrictions.
Burnham says the fight for a “fairer” deal is about “more than just Greater Manchester” – with the Mayor claiming many more regions are likely to be upgraded to Tier 3 during winter.
Leese admitted that Greater Manchester would ultimately need to comply with any government ultimatum, but expressed his disappointment that negotiations had faltered yet again.
“There seems to be a real unwillingness from the government to listen to reason,” said the council leader.
“I think they’ve tabled fairly badly worked-out regulations and are now refusing to recognise that and enter into a serious negotiation.”
Burnham says he would “not break the law” if the Government put the region into ‘Tier 3’ restrictions without his consent, but would challenge whether it is “the right thing to do”.
Further discussions are set to take place this morning as the deadline for a decision fast approaches.