Polic­ing fears prompt PM to stay his hand on Manch­ester

The Daily Telegraph - - Front Page - By Gor­don Rayner Po­lit­i­cal Edi­tor

BORIS JOHNSON held back from im­pos­ing harsh Covid re­stric­tions on Manch­ester last night amid fears the po­lice will not adequately en­force them with­out the sup­port of the city’s mayor.

The Prime Min­is­ter said he wanted “max­i­mum lo­cal en­force­ment” but that could only be achieved with “max­i­mum lo­cal buy-in”.

Greater Manch­ester Po­lice an­swers to Andy Burn­ham, the Labour mayor who has so far re­fused to agree to the city be­ing put into the high­est of three tiers of lock­down mea­sures. Yes­ter­day, Priti Pa­tel, the Home Sec­re­tary, phoned Ian Hopkins, the Chief Con­sta­ble of Greater Manch­ester, to make sure he had “all the sup­port [he] needs” from “lo­cal politi­cians”.

Talks with Manch­ester’s lead­ers will con­tinue over the week­end, with Gov­ern­ment sources sug­gest­ing no de­ci­sion on putting the city into tier three is now likely to be made be­fore Mon­day.

Mr Johnson said last night that if the two sides could not agree, “I will need to in­ter­vene in or­der to pro­tect Manch­ester’s hos­pi­tals and to save the lives of Manch­ester’s residents”. How­ever, the Prime Min­is­ter’s three-tier pol­icy was in dan­ger of un­rav­el­ling af­ter lead­ers in the North East also per­suaded the Gov­ern­ment to back off from putting the area into the top tier by pro­duc­ing fig­ures that showed the in­fec­tion rate in the area was go­ing down.

Lan­cashire did reach an agree­ment with the Gov­ern­ment to be placed into tier three, only for its coun­cil lead­ers to later ac­cuse min­is­ters of bul­ly­ing and black­mail­ing them into ac­cept­ing.

Mean­while, the mayor of Liver­pool de­manded to know why his city had been forced to close gyms when Lan­cashire’s had been al­lowed to stay open.

Yes­ter­day, 15,650 peo­ple tested pos­i­tive for coro­n­avirus, a de­crease of 3,330 on the pre­vi­ous day, with 136 deaths, two fewer than on Thurs­day. Fig­ures also showed the in­fec­tion rate drop­ping in Greater Manch­ester, with the sev­en­day rolling aver­age fall­ing from 556 cases per 100,000 peo­ple to 460. Mr Burn­ham has told the Gov­ern­ment he

will only agree to tier three sta­tus for Manch­ester if the fur­lough scheme, which paid 80 per cent of the wages of peo­ple who could not work, was rein­tro­duced in the re­gion, some­thing which the Trea­sury has ruled out.

Rishi Su­nak, the Chan­cel­lor, is pre­pared to give some extra sup­port by ex­tend­ing the new job sup­port scheme – which pays two thirds of wages – to businesses forced into “re­stricted trade”, as well as those forced to shut their doors, such as pubs.

It would mean businesses such as restau­rants would get help in tier two and tier three.

An­other op­tion would see the cash grants avail­able to firms forced to close, which cur­rently run up to £3,000 a month, ex­tended to f i rms whose in­comes have been slashed by the ban on house­hold mix­ing. Busi­ness groups are press­ing the Chan­cel­lor to change the cri­te­ria for grants to in­clude those firms forced to close by “cir­cum­stance”, as well as those shut down by law.

Mr Johnson said: “I hope that the Mayor of Greater Manch­ester will come with us … we’ve got to get this done but it’s bet­ter to do it to­gether be­cause we want the max­i­mum lo­cal buy-in, the max­i­mum lo­cal en­force­ment … and that means lo­cal lead­er­ship that is needed.”

Gov­ern­ment sources said Mr Johnson was anx­ious to make sure po­lice in tier three ar­eas en­forced re­stric­tions. Ms Pa­tel spoke to chief con­sta­bles in Greater Manch­ester, Lan­cashire, Wales and Mersey­side, “to make sure they have all the sup­port they need from na­tional politi­cians but also, more im­por­tantly, from lo­cal politi­cians”, said a Home Office source.

Po­lice and crime com­mis­sion­ers – a role filled by Mr Burn­ham in Manch­ester – have the power to help set strate­gic pri­or­i­ties for their lo­cal con­stab­u­lar­ies.

The Home Office source added: “The po­lice are not politi­cised. They have op­er­a­tional in­de­pen­dence and it is the po­lice’s job to en­force the law.”

Mr Burn­ham and fel­low lead­ers in Greater Manch­ester re­leased a state­ment say­ing said they had heard noth­ing from the Gov­ern­ment all day, and had not re­ceived a promised re­sponse to re­quests made on Thurs­day.

“We do not be­lieve that the cur­rent pro­pos­als pro­vide ad­e­quate sup­port and that is why we await fur­ther talks with the Gov­ern­ment,” they added.

460

The seven-day rolling aver­age of Covid-19 infections per 100,000 peo­ple in Greater Manch­ester yes­ter­day, down from 556

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