Government has been ‘crossing its fingers’ over Covid claims senior councillor

A senior Leeds politician has accused authorities of “crossing their fingers” when it comes to Covid-19 restrictions.
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Leeds and the rest of West Yorkshire had been set to enter the government’s severe “tier 3” lockdown measures on Monday, but this was changed at the eleventh hour to instead wait until new national lockdown measures on Thursday.

This will, in effect, leave Leeds and West Yorkshire in “tier 2” restrictions for an extra three days.

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The leader of the Leeds City Council Liberal Democrats group, Stewart Golton, has claimed the government has not followed scientific advice closely enough, and focussed too heavily on rebooting the economy without proper safety measures.

Leeds Lib Dems leader Coun Stewart Golton.Leeds Lib Dems leader Coun Stewart Golton.
Leeds Lib Dems leader Coun Stewart Golton.

“They want to do the minimum possible,” he said. “Since lockdown was unlocked, their priority has been getting the economy moving again.

“Each time they opened things up, they effectively crossed their fingers, instead of looking at the scientific consensus.

“They have been resistant to relinquish track and trace to localities – that has been their Achilles heel. It’s a consequence of them opening up the economy.”

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Documents revealed by the BBC last month showed the government had been told to introduce a national “circuit-breaker” lockdown on September 21.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson continued with the “tiered” local approach before changing tact on October 31 and introducing a national lockdown expected to last for at least one month.

Leeds City Council did not respond to our request for a comment, but a statement released at the weekend by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, representing West Yorkshire’s five council areas, said: “It is imperative that Government now honours the financial commitments made to the people and businesses of the region during these discussions in writing again now.

“We received verbal assurances this evening that support packages will be provided, but await written confirmation from Government.

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“We remain extremely concerned about the rising infection rates in the region. The urgency for people to restrict their social interactions is still as real as it was when Tier 3 was announced last week.

“Our hospitals are under tremendous strain and we would collectively implore everyone to follow the regulations, stay apart, wash your hands and wear your face covering. We must now pull together, comply with the rules and take every action we can to face this challenge as a community and as a nation. We have to do this to beat this virus.”

The cabinet office has been approached for a comment.