Matt Hancock has said Andy Burnham’s resistance to a Westminster imposed tier 3 lockdown in Greater Manchester influenced the governments decision not to negotiate with local leaders on future restrictions.
England’s four-week national lockdown ends on December 2 and will be replaced by a three-tiered system similar to the one that was in place before.
However the new system will involve tougher rules and local leaders will not be consulted.
Speaking to MPs on Tuesday, the health secretary said the protracted talks between the government and Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, had been “bad for public health”.
Burnham had demanded better financial support for local people and businesses before agreeing to the tier 3 lockdown in his region.
In the end Boris Johnson decided to put Greater Manchester into the highest tier without an agreement having been reached.
Hancock said: “The reason we are doing it differently is whilst in most cases when we negotiated with most areas in the previous tiered arrangement, we had a high quality discussion which led to better outcomes – a case in point is Liverpool, where the case rate has fallen by over two-thirds in the last three weeks.
“Unfortunately that wasn’t the case in all local areas.”
Asked whether he was referring to Greater Manchester, Hancock said: “That would be one example but not the only one.
“Sadly, in the case of Greater Manchester, cases carried on going up whilst we were trying to put in place the measures that were necessary.
“So instead we’ve proposed a set of measures within the tiers which are fixed, also financial support which is agreed by formula rather than negotiation.
“We will have engagement but what we won’t have is a two-week long negotiation while the cases still go up, that is bad for public health.”
Hancock was speaking to a joint session of the Commons health and social care committee and the science and technology committee.
The health secretary admitted the previous tier 3 was no “strong enough to get the R rate below one, and therefore cases falling” and the new levels were “better-calibrated”.
“We need a slightly tougher third tier so we can have confidence that we can bring cases down under the tiered system,” he said.