Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham was hailed as ‘King of the North’ on Thursday by social media users after he opposed the Government’s plans to place Greater Manchester into tier three local lockdown restrictions.
Speaking on Thursday afternoon, the Mayor of Greater Manchester claimed that the UK Government is asking local leaders to “gamble our residents’ jobs, homes and businesses… on a strategy their own experts tell them might not work”. Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said that there was “total unity” from Conservative and Labour Greater Manchester MPs in opposing tier 3 measures during a call with the Government on Thursday.
Here’s a look at why tighter restrictions have not yet been implemented and what could happen next…
What are leaders not agreeing on?
Local leaders in the North of England are not keen on their areas moving into tier three of local lockdown restrictions for two main reasons;
Firstly, some local leaders are not convinced that new restrictions imposed by the Government would be effective. Areas moved into tier three of local lockdown measures would be banned from having inter-household mixing in any setting (except some exceptions such as for education) and pubs in these areas that do not serve food would be forced to close. Some scientists have claimed that these measures would not be enough, favouring a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown and there is also little known evidence to suggest that closing pubs that don’t serve food would significantly reduce the spread of the virus.
Secondly, there are concerns about the levels of financial support being offered to areas with the toughest restrictions. Imposing such restrictions would adversely affect businesses and jobs. Part of the reason that Northern leaders have so far rejected new restrictions is that they are not satisfied that enough financial support is being offered, and calls for the Government to increase this has so far not led to any significant changes.
Labour MP for Wigan Lisa Nandy tweeted, “We will support evidence-based interventions with adequate financial support. We will not support this chaos.”
Why do some feel that the North is being ‘treated with contempt’?
Northern leaders are unhappy with restrictions and financial support that has been proposed and are also unhappy with how the government is communicating with them.
On Wednesday, Sky News reported that the government had made a decision regarding new measures for the North, though it emerged that Northern Leaders had not been told this information ahead of media reports.
On Thursday, the leader of Oldham Council Sean Fielding described talks with the government as a “masterclass in how not to” hold negotiations. Mr Fielding claimed the government’s “opening line” during a call was that Tier 3 restrictions would be implemented with local leaders or imposed.
Can the government just impose restrictions anyway?
Yes – the Government could go and announce new restrictions without the consent and approval of local leaders, however, this is ideally something it would wish to avoid. The Government has been keen to try and bring local leaders on side with new restrictions so that they are implemented and maintained more effectively in the localities where they will exist.
Will tier-three restrictions be implemented?
It now seems that it is only a matter of time before tier-three local lockdown restrictions are implemented in parts of Northern England.
It had been expected that such a move would be announced by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in the House of Commons on Thursday morning, however, talks were still ongoing at that point.
Talks have been taking place between the government and local leaders in the North of England for many days now, and while no decision has been announced at the time of publication, an announcement could happen before the end of the week. It is understood that discussions are still continuing over a financial support package to accompany new restrictions.
Cases in Greater Manchester and Lancashire are considerably higher than most areas of the country, so further interventions in the coming days seem highly likely.