Andy Burnham says he will keep to the law and “accept” Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions for Greater Manchester if the government imposes them.
The region’s mayor told Sky News it was ministers’ “prerogative” to announce the measures, if negotiations over the next few hours end in stalemate.
He and other local leaders have been given until midday today to reach an agreement on moving three million people into England’s highest band of coronavirus controls.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said last night there have been 10 days of talks in “good faith” but they are still in deadlock.
If there is no breakthrough, he suggested Prime Minister Boris Johnson could impose measures unilaterally as COVID-19 spreads through Greater Manchester and public health “continues to deteriorate”.
Responding, Mr Burnham told the Kay Burley show: “We wouldn’t break the law… We would obviously have to accept that decision, in the end it’s the government’s prerogative.”
But he warned the change would hurt “the lowest paid in society” like pub workers and taxi drivers, so Downing Street needs to pledge more financial support for firms forced to stop trading.
“If you’re going to impose a lockdown here it’s going to cause certain harm to all the people I’ve mentioned,” Mr Burnham said.
“I don’t believe we can consign our residents to hardship in that way.”
Overnight, it emerged Mr Jenrick had offered £22m – around £8 per person – for “individuals, businesses, and the wider region” affected by the Tier 3 move.
Mr Burnham said the “late-night ultimatum” was “a bit provocative” and accused ministers of “trying to penny pinch”, but revealed he is consulting today with other local politicians and they will respond with “what we think is a fair figure”.
“I will respond as positively and constructively as I can,” he promised.
Earlier, business minister Nadhim Zahawi said the government was offering Greater Manchester politicians “anything they’re looking for” and urged them to “make this happen now”.
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