Matt Hancock's Local Lockdown Plan Rejected By Northern Leaders As A 'Recipe For Chaos'

Manchester and Yorkshire leaders suggest plan for highly localised lockdowns panders to Tory MPs.

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Matt Hancock’s new plan for drawing up local lockdowns in England has been rejected by northern leaders as a “recipe for utter confusion, division and chaos”.

The health secretary last week asked council leaders and MPs to reach a consensus on which districts should be freed from coronavirus restrictions and which should remain under lockdown.

But Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham and three West Yorkshire council leaders have all rejected the plan following the meetings.

They accused Hancock of making it up as he goes along and pandering to the concerns of backbench Tories rather than listening to local authority leaders.

One Labour MP who was at a meeting to decide on highly localised ward-level restrictions told HuffPost UK MPs were effectively being asked to make decisions on which areas to lock down “based on a PowerPoint presentation” by their local public health director, as they could not access infection data themselves.

The MPs were also not given guidance from the government on what infection levels are dangerous enough to trigger a lockdown in a certain area, they said.

But one of the Tories involved in the local lockdown meetings described the process as “very productive, wholly evidence based” and leading to “a logical and sensible conclusion”.

The leaders of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees councils in West Yorkshire, which all have restrictions in place, said unlocking certain areas while keeping restrictions in others would make “the already confused local regulations almost impossible to understand”.

They called for the three areas to be brought out of local lockdowns and put in line with national restrictions.

“Step up to your job as national government,” the leaders said.

“Different restrictions ward-by-ward and place-by-place decided by Tory backbench MPs undermines local council leadership and is no way to lead a nation through a national pandemic.

“You need to set a clear national framework for the nation which local authorities (can) operate within.

“Instead you’re making it up as you go along.”

Burnham said: “I wouldn’t say this was a unanimous position but it was certainly the overwhelming consensus of our meeting that that is not a road we should go down. It is a recipe for utter confusion, division and chaos, and we are saying to the government we do not want to work in that way.

“To play in the concerns of Members of Parliament, obviously they are valid and need to be heard, but you cannot say views from one community alone can dictate what happens for the whole of a borough.

“So we are saying very clearly back to the government today that it is the council leaders and their teams themselves that need to be in the driving seat when it comes to decisions about the lifting of restrictions. People do not want to see a division within particular boroughs.

“Sadly I think what we begin to see is some people playing politics at a local level with these issues. The view of the leaders was that was entirely the wrong way to go. We will continue to be evidence-based in the way that we approach this and we will take the responsible course as we have done all along.”

The consensus lockdown proposals decided on by council leaders and MPs were being discussed by chief medical officer Chris Whitty and senior advisers on Wednesday.

Whitty will join Hancock for a “gold command” meeting of the Joint Biosecurity Centre on Thursday, when a final decision will be taken on whether to lift current restrictions.


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