22nd October 2020

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Government worry over Andy Burnham’s soapbox moment

Rishi Sunak has warned that caving into Andy Burnham’s demand for more cash will commit the Treasury to finding huge sums for other areas facing Covid restrictions


Burnham’s enjoying a ‘soapbox moment’: Manchester Mayor accused of attention seeking as Treasury warns Boris not to write blank cheque

  • Chancellor Rishi Sunak was warned the PM about caving in to Andy Burnham
  • The Manchester mayor wishes to secure additional funding for his region 
  • Downing Street sources are worried about what may happen in this situation  

Rishi Sunak has warned that caving into Andy Burnham’s demand for more cash will commit the Treasury to finding huge sums for other areas facing Covid restrictions.

As Downing Street seeks another round of talks with the defiant Manchester Mayor today over introducing Tier 3 rules in the city, the Chancellor is alarmed at the thought of being saddled with another huge bill.

Asked about the prospect of handouts for every area placed into Tier 3 status, a Treasury insider asked: ‘Who’s going to pay for it?’ Another source said: ‘If you give a pot of money, it creates a precedent. Then everyone who goes into Tier 3 will want a pot of cash.’

Rishi Sunak has warned that caving into Andy Burnham’s demand for more cash will commit the Treasury to finding huge sums for other areas facing Covid restrictions 

Rishi Sunak, pictured, is unwilling to allow local mayors promise additional Covid spending

Rishi Sunak, pictured, is unwilling to allow local mayors promise additional c

It is understood, however, that Mr Sunak will not block extra economic measures for the Greater Manchester region if that is ‘what it takes to get them over the line’ in negotiations with Mr Burnham.

The former Labour Minister is expected to use media interviews today to heap pressure on Boris Johnson. As the stand-off grew more rancorous, an ally of Mr Sunak accused Mr Burnham of using the virus as his ‘soapbox moment’.

Mr Burnham and other local leaders are pressing for more shielding measures for the vulnerable, extra financial aid and stricter local powers to shut down venues that break virus guidelines.

A source close to the talks said: ‘The leaders are resolute. They say they’ll meet Government officials again, but the support package needs to be better and they’re not convinced the Tier 3 measures will make any difference.’ Mr Johnson says Labour mayors are putting lives at risk by refusing to agree to the measures and is expected to push them into Tier 3 tomorrow even if no agreement is reached.

‘They’ll go into lockdown on Monday,’ one Tory MP said. ‘The Government will give them some more money. Boris has to hold on, stay with what he said he would do, and see if it works.’ The MP warned that public finances were in a ‘spiral vortex downwards’, adding: ‘It’s a large hole in the ground and we keep digging. We have taken leave of our senses.’

The prospect of giving more cash to areas in Tier 3, which includes a ban on meeting socially with anybody indoors who is not part of your household, or support bubble, came as Mr Sunak warned Ministers to ‘buckle their belts’ as departments began negotiating budgets ahead of the Spending Review.

One Government source said Ministers had been ‘surprised by how tough’ the Treasury had been in its response to their submissions.

The pressure on the Treasury will grow with more areas of the country expected to face tighter restrictions this week.

One North East MP said councils in the region had been warned in a call with Health Secretary Matt Hancock that they may be put into Tier 3. Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire are expected to see tougher restrictions within days.

Mr Johnson’s tense negotiations with Mr Burnham come amid pressure from some backbenchers over the decision to take London and Essex into Tier 2. Five Tory MPs in Essex have written to the PM to call for more support. One, Sir Bernard Jenkin, said: ‘We are facing a much better situation with regard to Covid than we were in the spring. We protected businesses then, so why on earth let them go bust now?’



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