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Covid: Greater Manchester given £60m support package

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image copyrightPA Media
image captionGreater Manchester is set to move to the highest Covid-19 alert level

A £60m support package for businesses affected by new coronavirus restrictions in Greater Manchester will be distributed across the region.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed the government will be giving the extra funding as the region goes into the highest tier on Friday.

The move follows a breakdown in talks with local leaders who requested £90m but lowered their demand to £65m.

Labour Mayor Andy Burnham told ITV News he has "no regrets for taking a stand".

"This wasn't a negotiation, this was basically bulldozed through and we took a stand," the Greater Manchester mayor said.

"So no regrets for taking that stand because the point is they were imposing an arbitrary formula one-by-one on places."

Greater Manchester is the first area to be forced into tier three, England's highest level of alert, against the wishes of local leaders.

The £65m figure was described by Mr Burnham as the "bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship".

media captionSir Keir Starmer and Boris Johnson clash on the money offered to regions in the coronavirus crisis

During Prime Minister's Question Time, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticised Mr Johnson for not being able to "find" £5m, adding "stop bargaining with people's lives".

"I think the Prime Minister has crossed a Rubicon here," he said.

"Not just with the miserly way he's treated Greater Manchester but in the grubby 'take it or leave' way these local deals are being done - it's corrosive to public trust."

But Mr Johnson said he was "very proud that this government has already given Greater Manchester £1.1bn in support for business, £200m in extra un-ringfenced funding, £50m to tackle infections in care homes, £20m for test and trace, another £22m for local response that we announced yesterday".

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has since written to the region's council leaders inviting them "to work with us at pace to design their business support schemes".

He added that this will "ensure the funding reaches the people and businesses who need it".

The Conservative leader of Bolton Council said he is willing to look at an individual deal over the government's offer of £60m.

image captionThe government's three-tier strategy of regional measures is designed to avoid a national lockdown

David Greenhalgh said: "It is clear the amount on the table, which is what has been accepted in Liverpool [City Region], Lancashire and now South Yorkshire, and I am not prepared for Bolton businesses to miss out on this extra financial help.

"This is not the time for posturing and politics. This is about getting the best deal available for Bolton business and those who work in the sectors worst affected."

Meanwhile Manchester's night time economy adviser Sacha Lord has started the process to launch a legal challenge of the government's decision to put the region into the top tier.

He tweeted: "Last night we started the judicial review into the legality of implementing emergency restrictions on Greater Manchester's hospitality sector, without scientific evidence."

He said a "pre-action letter has been filed" and he is waiting for a response from Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

image copyrightPA Media
image captionAndy Burnham said he hoped to set a Covid-19 funding template for other areas to use

After talks broke down between local leaders and the government, six Tory MPs wrote to Mr Burnham accusing him of putting his "ego" above the people of Greater Manchester.

Oldham Council leader Sean Fielding said: "It wasn't just Andy Burnham that rejected the offer of £60m, it was collectively the 10 council leaders and Andy Burnham."

"£60m was not enough and it remains not enough," added the Labour councillor.

The Labour leader of Bury Council Eamonn O'Brien also responded to the letter, saying: "This is about our collective fight to get the best possible deal for our businesses and residents, especially those on the lowest pay."

But Mr Burnham said "we asked for £90m - which is the cost of an 80% furlough & self-employed scheme".

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