"An absolute disaster": Lancashire leaders react to Tier 3 status

Council leaders in Lancashire have condemned the government’s decision to place the whole of the county into Tier 3 Covid restrictions when the national lockdown ends on 2nd December.

By Paul Faulkner
Thursday, 26th November 2020, 12:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th November 2020, 6:20 pm

Lancashire's county and borough leaders yesterday made a recommendation to ministers that the region's post-lockdown rules should be implemented on a district-by-district basis - with all areas except Preston and five districts council areas in the east of the county put forward for Tier 2.

Tier 3 status will mean pubs, restaurants and hospitality businesses will remain closed for anything other than takeaways - and household mixing will still be banned in all indoor settings and private gardens. However, non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen.

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(Clockwise from left) South Ribble leader Paul Foster, Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown and Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver

Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver described the move as “disappointing” and told the Post that he would be asking the government “what the measures will be for coming out of Tier 3”.

It is expected that the regulations will be reviewed on a fortnightly basis.

However, the Post understands that on a call between government officials and Lancashire council leaders earlier this afternoon, there was no indication that ministers were willing to consider a borough-by-borough exit strategy either. That raises the prospect of the county remaining in Tier 3 until the worst-affected of the 14 council areas is deemed ready to emerge from the toughest restrictions.

Lancashire County Council chief executive Angie Ridgwell said that the region was "incredibly disappointed" that every corner of it had been placed under Tier 3 - and the former senior Whitehall official added that the move suggested the government "didn't understand our large and complex geography".

She added that the county would "continue to make representations in the best interest of Lancashire" and do everything it could to persuade the government to adopt a more localised approach.

Preston City Council leader Matthew Brown said the announcement showed that “it was back to the government deciding these things without any consultation locally”.

“Whilst tackling the virus has to be the number one priority in Preston, I fear for the long-term effects on our community in terms of exacerbating entrenched inequalities.

“The measures should also be based on the evidence. You have got to tackle where the virus is - and, at best, the evidence is marginal that it is [being transmitted] in the sectors that they’re shutting down.

“Even the Lancashire proposal to treat individual districts differently - the specifics of which we didn’t agree with, because that, too, put Preston in Tier 3 - has been ignored by the government.

“If infection rates continue to fall, I really want to see us be able to enter Tier 2 in a couple of weeks’ time,” Cllr Brown said.

In the week to 22nd November, Lancashire's rolling seven-day infection stood at 245.0 per 100,000 people, slightly above the England average of 218.4.

In Preston, the figure for the same period was 268.3 - but having fallen for 12 consecutive days with the exception of a minimal increase for the most recent date.

South Ribble’s case rate over that timeframe was 213.0 - and the borough’s leader Paul Foster said the move into Tier 3 was “an absolute disaster” for the district.

“There was just no need for this - and it will have a devastating impact in South Ribble and across the county.

“There are businesses that won’t recover - it’s that serious.

“Tier 2 could have been managed appropriately and safely - we have worked hard and driven the infection rate down, but the government just won’t engage with us.

“And what a surprise that the whole of London is under Tier 2 - this can’t be based on the epidemiology,” Cllr Foster said.

The leader of neighbouring Chorley Council - where the rolling seven-day infection rate is currently 201.3 - said that the decision appeared to have made on the basis of “simplicity for the government”.

“It’s easier to draw fewer lines on a map, but this is a shambles - our rates are lower than some of the areas put into Tier 2.

“The measures need to be targeted at different communities - and we’ll be doing everything we can to ensure that, when this is reviewed, substantial chunks of Lancashire are moved to Tier 2 where they should be.

“However, residents must still operate within the law and the guidance. We might be disappointed, but we have got to keep going,” Cllr Bradley said.

Ms Ridgwell also made a direct appeal to residents.

"It's been an incredibly tough [period] and we know it's been tougher in Lancashire than many other places.

"Over the last month or so, rates have started to come down and that's because people have been following the rules even when they don’t like those rules.

"I know its hard, I know we're asking an incredible amount of people, but please do follow the rules and help us to move out of Tier 3 as soon as we possibly can." .