Mayor of Middlesbrough ANDY PRESTON blasts local lockdown measures


People in my town are frustrated, angry and dismayed at the Government’s draconian proposals to impose even more oppressive local restrictions.

There’s nothing compassionate or pragmatic about what Health Secretary Matt Hancock intends to do. 

It’s badly thought out, illogical and – despite what the Government claimed yesterday – it is not based on consultation with councils or local experts.

To throw people out of work and take away the support of their friends, family and community is just cruel. People are seen in Middlesbrough

Fortunately these plans are not yet in place – and hopefully they stay that way. For I know I speak on behalf of Middlesbrough here when I say that, as things stand, we do not accept them.

Of course, stopping the spread of the virus has to be the Government’s priority. But this must be done with an awareness of the pain that isolation can inflict, and the damage it does to mental and physical health.

Above all, for God’s sake, we have to do everything possible to preserve people’s livelihoods.

Our local council went to the Government and explained the over-riding importance of this. We asked them to work with the community and local businesses, to allow safe socialising and keep Middlesbrough moving. They didn’t listen.

To me, it is obvious that anyone should be allowed to visit a relative or a friend in their garden, and have a cup of coffee while remaining well distanced. And, of course, we should be able to meet them for a chat in a well-run, socially distanced coffee shop.

Yet these new rules – which essentially ban different households from meeting – will prohibit all those safe, human activities that are small but so essential for wellbeing.

People are seen shopping in Middlesbrough town centre. People in my town are frustrated, angry and dismayed at the Government’s draconian proposals to impose even more oppressive local restrictions

People are seen shopping in Middlesbrough town centre. People in my town are frustrated, angry and dismayed at the Government’s draconian proposals to impose even more oppressive local restrictions

To add to the insanity, it isn’t even clear how the regulations will be enforced. Like so many growing towns, Middlesbrough spills out of its boundaries – and the neighbouring borough of Redcar and Cleveland is not included in the restrictions. 

It’ll be two rules for one town, and sometimes two rules within one street.

This is bitterly unfair on a community which is still recovering from the recessions of the 1980s.

I don’t like complaining because my parents always said that life’s not fair, but that is no reason to introduce obviously and unnecessarily unfair measures such as these. 

For now is the worst possible time to be forbidding people to socialise. Six months of long nights and cold weather are on the way.

To throw people out of work and take away the support of their friends, family and community is just cruel. 

It will push many people into depression, and I am afraid that increased rates of suicide will be just one of the terrible consequences. Crucially it doesn’t have to be like this. 

To me, it is obvious that anyone should be allowed to visit a relative or a friend in their garden, and have a cup of coffee while remaining well distanced

To me, it is obvious that anyone should be allowed to visit a relative or a friend in their garden, and have a cup of coffee while remaining well distanced

After the initial lockdown, our public health experts came up with innovative, workable ideas to make venues safe and limit the spread of the virus, while still allowing people to see each other. But the Government seems to have paid no attention to these advances.

The injustice is heightened because Middlesbrough has been at the forefront of tough measures to try to stem the tide during this global crisis. We have not been soft on Covid-19. 

As a council, we have been active and caring, and we’ve got stuff done. We’ve handed out 180,000 free facemasks, and my team was pushing for people in the hospitality industry to wear them long before it became obligatory. To me it was an obvious preventative measure, one enforced across much of Europe, and we led the way.

Yes, I will reluctantly obey these new rules if they become law and I will urge everyone in my town to do so. This isn’t about raising two fingers to Downing Street. It’s much more important than a mere protest. 

But before the Government makes a dire mistake and puts these restrictions into law, I’m pleading with them to think again. 

We need a plan to reduce transmission of the virus while showing compassion and understanding. That is what is missing.

As a council, we have been active and caring, and we’ve got stuff done. We’ve handed out 180,000 free facemasks, and my team was pushing for people in the hospitality industry to wear them long before it became obligatory

As a council, we have been active and caring, and we’ve got stuff done. We’ve handed out 180,000 free facemasks, and my team was pushing for people in the hospitality industry to wear them long before it became obligatory

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