Greater Manchester placed into Tier Three restrictions
By Tim Le Couilliard, Public Affairs
Speaking at Downing Street, Prime Minister Boris Johnson today delivered the news that Greater Manchester would indeed be placed into Tier Three lockdown restrictions, as well as announcing the support package that has been under discussion for the last 10 days. As the major city of the North, and with a population of 2.8 million people, the symbolic ramifications of the imposed local lockdown are set to be huge.
With slides even more detailed than usual, the press conference outlined a grave picture with both the national breakdown of the virus, as well as a local authority level. As intended, the graphs clearly illustrated a far higher number of cases, as well as a higher rate of change, in the North, especially in the Greater Manchester region. One slide specifically showed the heatmaps for each of the subregions of Greater Manchester, where there are “very significant areas of heat” across all the age groups.
This, “clearly shows why we must act” according to the Prime Minister, which, in this instance, is leading to the lockdown of Greater Manchester. Whilst nationally the R-number is below its “natural level”, and currently is below 3, it is still above 1 – meaning that the virus is spreading. This, Johnson stated, means that the government has to take measures and particularly in the areas where the cases are most prevalent.
Greater Manchester moving to Tier Three restrictions means that bars and pubs will be forced to close, unless they are serving “substantial meals.” Households cannot meet indoors or in most outdoor settings, and people are advised not to travel into or out of the area. In line with Lancashire, further restrictions are being imposed including the closure of betting shops, casinos, bingo halls, adult gaming centres, and soft play areas. These will be closed for a month.
Regulations are being laid before parliament on Thursday and will be in place just before midnight.
Accepting the restrictions are “tough on businesses and individuals”, Johnson moved on to the support that has been negotiated, relatively publicly, over the past 10 days. Citing the previous “comprehensive support schemes” already announced, Johnson stated that those on low incomes will receive up to 80% of their normal income. Local councils are able to draw upon a separate fund in order to support and implement restrictions. This is the support that Greater Manchester is set to receive – with their allocation being the (already infamous) £22 million announced today. In a statement made moments before the Prime Minister, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, alongside local council leaders, described the amount as “brutal,” and that he hoped the sides could still come to an agreement. Government sources however have said that the Mayor was “too proud to make a deal.”
Stating that it was both “unfortunate” and “regretful” that an agreement hadn’t been made in Manchester, Johnson stated that the 10 days of talks had ended without result. Johnson stated that the government had made a “generous” and extensive offer to support Manchester businesses – in line with what had been offered to Merseyside and Lancashire last week, estimated to be around £60 million, but that the Mayor, Andy Burnham, had not accepted this.
This means that the government has directly imposed restrictions on Manchester, the first of its kind (it has been local authorities’ implementation in the other regions) because “not to act would put Manchester’s NHS and the Manchester residents at risk”. Despite the failure to agree measures, Johnson stated that he was still wishing to work with the council leaders and Mayor to uphold the new restrictions. It has also been clarified since that the £22 million is not expected to be the final amount the region receives – with a statement later by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock potentially set to clarify the arrangements.
Johnson also outlined that some other regions are looking increasingly likely to be placed into the top tier restrictions, including South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire and the North East. In what could be seen as a warning for upcoming negotiations Johnson used the Merseyside and Lancashire negotiations as an example of what could be done – stressing that it would not be beneficial for the talks to go the same way as Greater Manchester.
It is clear that the government was reluctant to match the demands of Greater Manchester, worrying about precedent and giving more cash to Greater Manchester than any other parts of the country. You will remember, however, that Manchester, along with other parts of the north, was promised a “levelling up agenda” in the 2019 General Election, that saw much of the region vote for the Conservatives. Speaking moments before the Prime Minister, Mayor Andy Burnham described what had been announced as a “levelling down.”
He did, however, call on his constituents to “observe the law at all times”.
The haggling and subsequent failure of negotiations in Greater Manchester have led to greater calls for a nationalised approach to the lockdowns going forward – an approach that has recently been championed by Labour Leader Sir Keir Stammer. In his conference, however, Johnson said that the countries with the most success at responding to the virus are those with local lockdown responses.