Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees council leaders slam Government's 'confused and bungled' messaging on West Yorkshire local lockdown

The Government’s messaging on local coronavirus restrictions has been “confused and bungled”, council leaders in West Yorkshire have said.

Thursday, 27th August 2020, 3:43 pm
Updated Thursday, 27th August 2020, 3:44 pm

The leaders of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees have joined their counterparts in Greater Manchester in criticising proposals to tackle the virus on a ward-by-ward basis.

The local authority areas were put into lockdown due to a spike in coronavirus cases.

The measures were announced at 9.15pm on Thursday, July 30 and implemented from midnight the following day.

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Halifax in Calderdale, one of three West Yorkshire areas put into lockdown due to a spike in coronavirus cases

Another announcement on restrictions in parts of Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire is due to be made on Friday after Thursday’s meeting of the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) chaired by Health Secretary Matt Hancock and England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty.

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Last week, Mr Hancock announced a more targeted approach to Covid-19 restrictions in which the views of MPs would also be sought to gain “the maximum possible local consensus”.

He added this would allow local councils to focus resources on the wards which need more targeted intervention in order to drive infection rates down.

Bradford is under local lockdown

In a statement, councillors Susan Hinchcliffe, Tim Swift and Shabir Pandor, the leaders of Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees respectively, said: “Our infection rates have come down significantly this week, although they are still high.

“Over the last few months and weeks we, as leaders, have taken difficult decisions and directed significant resource in our councils to make this happen. However, throughout this time Government messaging has been confused and bungled.

“The latest shift in Government messaging that happened last week was that they inferred they wanted to see more localised restrictions, varying them ward by ward rather than by local authority areas.

“To add to the confusion, Government want to review and change these place by place weekly, leading to inconsistency in restrictions across the North. In the latest guidance from Government there is a presumption that wards with a low number of cases will start to revert to the national restrictions this week.

“Adding and subtracting restrictions ward by ward makes the already confused local regulations almost impossible to understand for residents so it begs the question whether restrictions across partial geography can be of any use at all?

“On top of this, people’s patience is wearing thin with the confusion. They need to know that the restrictions are fair otherwise they won’t keep to them.”

They called on the Government to lift restrictions in their three council areas in line with the rest of England so that messaging to the public would be “clearer”.

The councillors added that deciding where to introduce restrictions from recommendations made by Tory backbench MPs “undermines local council leadership”.

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, has also voiced concerns about input from MPs and cautioned that “some people were playing politics at a local level with these issues”.

Political leaders in Stockport and Bolton reached a consensus to ask the Government to follow Wigan, Rossendale and Darwen and remove current restrictions on social gatherings in homes.

Mr Burnham said restrictions in Oldham, Manchester, Rochdale, Bury, Tameside, Salford and Trafford should remain for now.

Leaders in Bury said the borough was in the “last chance saloon” at avoiding going into further lockdown after a sixth weekly rise in infection rates.