Andy Burnham was today accused of faking the moment he learned the city’s Tier Three lockdown funding had been slashed to £22million during a live press conference.
Tory ministers condemned the Greater Manchester mayor for ‘playing to the gallery’ as he railed at the government after negotiations over the financial package collapsed yesterday.
During the media call he was shown a message on a mobile phone, apparently informing him that only the ‘baseline’ funding of £22million would be provided after he rejected an offer of £60million extra.
But Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said the final news was delivered to the mayor at 2pm yesterday – two hours earlier.
Health minister Nadine Dorries swiped at the ‘tableau’ on Twitter.
But Labour’s Mr Burnham denied inventing the scene, replying to Ms Dorries: ‘For the sake of accuracy Nadine, it was the moment I was informed we were getting £22m and nothing more.
‘That was before the £60m was put back on the table. You are right, though, that I received a phone call at 2pm to say the Government was walking away from negotiations.’
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham faked the moment (pictured) he learned the city’s Tier Three lockdown funding had been slashed to £22million during a live press conference, Robert Jenrick revealed
The Communities Secretary today dismissed the claim that Mr Burnham found out the final package figure during the explosive conference last night, instead claiming he ‘phoned him and told him’ beforehand
In the conference, he said the figure was ‘brutal’ and accused the government of dooming people to ‘poverty’.
He added: ‘This is not right, they should not be doing this, grinding people down trying to accept the least they can get away with.’
How the war of words between Burnham and No 10 unfolded
October 14: The three-tier system is introduced in England. Andy Burnham instantly brands it ‘fundamentally flawed’ and threatens legal action if imposed by Government.
October 15: Mr Burnham accuses the Government of treating the North with ‘contempt’ as a row erupts over proposed coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the area.
October 16: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab accuses Mr Burnham of trying to ‘hold the Government over a barrel’ by resisting tougher restrictions and urges him to ‘do the right thing by the people of Manchester’.
The Prime Minister urges leaders in Greater Manchester to ‘reconsider and engage constructively’ over Tier 3 restrictions but says he will intervene if an agreement cannot be reached.
October 17: Mr Burnham said no meetings had taken place since Thursday morning and urged in a joint statement with council leaders that ‘we are ready to meet at any time’.
Downing Street on Saturday indicated a call had been scheduled for the following morning after a message was left with Mr Burnham.
October 18: Mr Burnham accused the Prime Minister of having engaged in an ‘exaggeration’ of the severity of Covid-19 in the region during a Downing Street press conference.
October 19: Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick warned local leaders they had until midday the following day to strike a deal with Government.
October 20: Figures in London and Manchester continued to talk even after the noon deadline for negotiations had passed.
Mr Burnham civic leaders were prepared to reduce their bid for financial support from £90million to £65 million – a figure he described as the ‘bare minimum to prevent a winter of real hardship’.
At a 5pm press conference no deal had been reached and the PM announced he would be unilaterally imposing Tier 3 on the region.
But, speaking to Sky News this morning, Mr Jenrick said Mr Burnham already knew how much was being offered.
He said: ‘I phoned him and told him. We had several conversations over the course of the morning, including with the Prime Minister, and I told him the final news at 2 o’clock.’
When asked if he felt Mr Burnham was ‘showboating’ for the cameras, Mr Jenrick replied: ‘I am not the slightest bit interested in point scoring. This isn’t about personalities or press conferences on the steps of town halls.
‘In the end, it’s about an important public health situation and it’s about ensuring the people of Greater Manchester now get the support that they deserve.’
Reacting to Mr Jenrick’s comments on Twitter, Rosetta Tickner said: ‘Confirmed what most of us already thought – Burnham staged that whole media circus. No integrity whatsoever.’
Gareth Quinn sarcastically added: ‘Who’d have thunk that Andy Burnham would have staged something in front of the cameras? I’m shocked I tell you. Shocked.’
Alan added: ‘Burnham had a call at 2pm yesterday to tell him what was happening, but no he went for the staged managed call in front of the press. Burnham would sell his soul.’
After more than a week of wrangling, Mr Johnson last night unilaterally shifted Greater Manchester to the highest level of curbs, saying Mr Burnham had rejected an offer of £60million business support, on top of £22million for contact tracing and enforcement.
Whitehall sources said an agreement of £55million was initially reached, but during a final telephone to rubber-stamp the arrangement Mr Burnham blindsided the Prime Minister with a demand for £65million.
The PM tried to compromise on £60million but a government source said: ‘Andy Burnham’s pride got in the way of a deal.’
Another source claimed the mayor had told the PM it was ‘important to him that he got more than Lancashire and Merseyside’, the other two areas already under Tier Three.
Boris Johnson today insisted he would honour the £60million package of business support for the region he offered to the Labour mayor.
But Mr Johnson said the money would now be ‘distributed to the boroughs’ instead of going through the mayor’s office.
The premier also jibed that he had a ‘great conversation’ with Sheffield City mayor Dan Jarvis, who today agreed a deal for South Yorkshire to be escalated to Tier Three from Saturday.
South Yorkshire has secured a £41million deal for contact tracing, enforcement and business support, and Mr Jarvis swiped at Mr Burnham by saying he had acted ‘responsibly’ in reaching an agreement.
Alongside a ban on households mixing indoors, pubs and bars will have to shut from midnight on Saturday, as well as betting shops, casinos and soft plays.
However, gyms and leisure centres can stay open – with Liverpool also getting their rules eased after a protest at double standards between regions. West Yorkshire leaders say they have been told it will not be escalated into Tier Three this week.
Viewers were quick to reply to Mr Jenrick’s comments, slamming Burnham for having ‘no integrity’
The daily number of coronavirus cases, counted by the date specimens were taken, has eased in key cities over recent days
The latest dramatic move means 7.3million people will be under the top level of restrictions by the weekend.
The sum granted to South Yorkshire is in roughly in line with that handed to Merseyside and Lancashire, adjusting for population size.
On BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Jenrick said Mr Burnham’s demands for ‘preferential treatment’ is what saw the talks deteriorate.
He said: ‘The mayor of Greater Manchester was never willing to draw this to a conclusion. The public health situation was deteriorating.
A furious blame game erupted between Boris Johnson (right at PMQs) and Andy Burnham (left) after talks over a Tier Three lockdown bailout failed
‘It would have frankly been irresponsible of the Government to allow this to continue for many more days without bringing it to a conclusion.
‘In a meeting with the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister offered £55 million, Andy Burnham asked for £65 million.
‘The Prime Minister said “Look, let’s just compromise, and get this done for the sake of people in Greater Manchester.”
‘Andy Burnham wasn’t willing to, so we had to take action.’
Greater Manchester will go under Tier 3 lockdown from midnight on Friday.