Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake has joined her counterparts in Manchester, Newcastle and Liverpool to express their concerns about the effectiveness of restrictions currently in place in their cities.
Cllr Blake and her fellow leaders have written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to set out a number of local measures which could be developed jointly across police, council enforcement and public health services which they believe would be more effective in controlling infection rates.
Current restrictions including the 10pm curfew have also led to concerns over the impact the pandemic is having on the local hospitality sector.
The five-point plan would see:
- Local decision making to agree additional lockdowns before they happen, and what measures are to be deployed between relevant services, with additional powers to take immediate action on non-compliance, for example closing premises. Lockdown triggers to include a broader assessment than just absolute numbers, and not to include further economic restrictions.
- A locally controlled Test and Trace system that is sensitive to local knowledge and needs of communities. This should include a joint planning response with local universities to provide effective support to students as part of containment plans.
- An improved Business Compensation Package to support those most affected. This will otherwise put at risk the Government’s ambitions to Level Up within this Parliament, as our cities stand to lose tens of thousands of jobs.
- Financial support for everyone who needs to self-isolate. Payment should recognise the additional support needs in our cities with higher levels of deprivation, and not be distributed on a per head of population basis.
- Improved monitoring of the impacts of the additional restrictions that have recently been put in place to understand their effect on Covid-19 rates.
Councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said:
We have been working incredibly hard with our partners and communities to control the spread of COVID-19 in Leeds and there has been a real sense of collective will and civic pride at local level.
But the fact is that in spite of that work, rates of infection are continuing to rise and the new and existing measures which have been imposed on Leeds are proving at best confusing and at worst ineffective and damaging to our residents and economy.
Alongside cities across the north, we believe that measures developed and led locally will prove far more effective in controlling the spread of this terrible virus and will equip us to make sure help and support goes where it is needed most. They would also address the serious concerns we have about the impact the pandemic is having on the hospitality sector and the current 10pm curfew which is proving to be counterproductive and is encouraging people to gather and socialise elsewhere.
To ignore the importance of local knowledge and understanding at this crucial juncture would be short-sighted and could risk undermining the progress we have made and the trust we have built up over the course of this incredibly difficult year.
I hope the government will take our suggestions onboard and work with us to help steer our cities through the coming weeks and months safely and with confidence.