Liverpool city region has been given £30m by the UK government to help businesses in another concession to local politicians accepting tighter coronavirus restrictions.
Civic leaders agreed the region’s 1.6m people would be subjected to the highest, Tier 3, measures, on Monday. But after other northern leaders refused to follow suit the government has increased its financial support.
Greater Manchester has become the focus of a power struggle between local and national government. Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson on Friday threatened to impose the measures after a week of resistance by mayor Andy Burnham and 10 borough leaders.
The extra cash for Liverpool, on top of £14m for enforcement and extra contact tracing support, marks an acceptance by Downing Street that its efforts to browbeat local politicians have largely failed.
Lancashire, in north-west England, only agreed to enter “very high” Tier 3 alert levels on Friday after getting £42m in total.
Steve Rotheram, metro mayor of Liverpool city region, said: “We have been absolutely clear since we were put into Tier 3 that we would continue to press the government and hold meaningful dialogue to secure vitally needed extra economic support.
“The result of this is that, today, we have obtained from the government, an additional £30m in funding. This is welcome news for our economy and the thousands of people whose businesses and jobs will now be supported through this very difficult period.”
Tier 3 measures include shutting pubs that cannot operate as restaurants and a range of other businesses, and vary according to local needs.
The government is trying to cut social interaction while keeping schools and the economy open. Local areas could use the money to improve assistance to businesses and their workers.
They are seeking to top up the furlough scheme. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is paying 66 per cent of salary, against the 80 per cent of the original furlough in March.
Closed companies get grants of up to £3,000 per fortnight.
Several northern Labour mayors also favour a short “circuit breaker” national lockdown as the quickest way to curb the sharp rise in coronavirus.
Northern cities have rates up to six times those in southern ones. So the government is reluctant to extend restrictions there. London and Essex have recently entered Tier 2 restrictions, which ban household mixing indoors. In Tier 3 households cannot mix outdoors in hospitality venues or private gardens and cannot meet in groups bigger than six anywhere.
Mr Burnham’s office said they had not had any talks with Downing Street on Saturday but stood ready to do so. It said the government had yet to offer extra money beyond the basic £8 per head handed to authorities in Tier 3 areas.
Dan Jarvis, mayor of the Sheffield city region, said he was putting together his conditions to enter Tier 3.
Meanwhile Joe Anderson, mayor of Liverpool, one of the city region’s six boroughs, said his brother had died from Covid-19 in hospital on Friday night.