Cheshire leaders call for tighter lockdown restrictions

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Cheshire leaders are calling for tougher measures to be implemented to tighten the current lockdown restrictions.

Leaders of Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, Warrington and Halton Councils, the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership have written to the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Housing and Local Government setting out their views on the current Covid lockdown which they describe as "the minimum necessary to address the alarming acceleration of the virus that we have seen across our communities".

However, they state that the "stay at home" message "is undermined by ambiguity between regulations and guidelines; making public compliance more difficult to secure and creating challenges for our enforcement authorities".

Would you like to see the lockdown retrictions tightened? Share you views via the comment box below.

The letter below was sent to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, on Tuesday, 12th January.

Dear Secretaries of State

We are writing to you jointly to set out the views of partners across Cheshire on the current lockdown arrangements, concerns about the impact on schools and our NHS, and progress in the deployment of testing and vaccines.

We support the need for a lockdown. It is the minimum necessary to address the alarming acceleration of the virus that we have seen across our communities and address the deeply concerning pressures on our hospitals.

However, the regulations have left too many areas of social and economic interaction subject to uncertainty. Last Spring there was widespread public compliance with a simple and effective message. In contrast this time, the clarity of the "stay at home" message is undermined by ambiguity between regulations and guidelines; making public compliance more difficult to secure and creating challenges for our enforcement authorities. For example, regulations enable people to exercise far from home, congregate in beauty-spots and public places, and travel for click-and-collect shopping. The more liberal interpretation of lockdown in the current regulations means that many more people are required to work away from home, increasing the risks that their communities will continue to be disproportionately affected. Travel in private and public transport is more significant than in the previous lockdowns. We also have evidence that mask-wearing is not sufficiently enforceable in indoor public places, or in outdoor areas where people are in close proximity.

We would support additional national measures that tighten these areas further, to be implemented alongside further financial support for businesses and their employees, and the self-employed.

The process for partial closure of schools was chaotic and poorly communicated by government, leaving our school staff, parents and pupils to deal with a terrible conflict between the education of children and the protection of public health. Our teachers and support staff, supported by our council teams, have been nothing short of heroic. But the constantly changing definition of critical workers and vulnerable children, applied inconsistently between schools facing different local circumstances, has again created confusion. We would urge the government to settle on a clear set of guidelines based on medical evidence, which schools can apply flexibly in support of their local circumstances.

We would also oppose a premature lifting of the lockdown. Cheshire experienced a rapid escalation between tiers during the Christmas period, which created real suffering amongst our local business community. Nothing would be more destabilising to business than more uncertainty about the regulations they will face. We support retaining lockdown until we see a sustained period of reduced infection, the immediate pressures on our hospitals have been resolved, and the vaccine has protected those who are at highest risk of hospital admission and serious illness. We should then exit with a clear strategy in place for recovery and renewal, supported by additional investment in our economy and communities.

We welcome the extension of asymptomatic testing under local management, and also the recognition by government that this cannot provide a "freedom pass" to breach the lockdown rules. We will deliver testing locally as part of a wider public health response, with tests made available only to those with unavoidable and repeated contact outside their households; including schools, care homes, critical businesses and front-line public services. We urge government to ensure a sufficient supply of lateral flow devises to meet this need, and to ensure councils have the funding required to deliver the programme effectively and safely. We expect this to remain in place long after the lockdown is eased. Public health programmes will need sustained investment, long after the peak of infection is passed.

Finally, we welcome the progress being made to roll out the vaccine. Councils are playing an important role in support of the local NHS, and we are committed to moving through the priority groups as quickly as possible. More local discretion would enable us to target specific communities, groups and individuals, based on evidence of the local public health benefit. We regret that community-level data is still not available publicly, despite the huge public interest in understanding the rollout of the vaccine locally, and the links to our local outbreak plans. We urge you to learn lessons from the rollout of local track and trace which has been hampered by excessive command-and-control, and the confusion created by the recent letter sent to some over-80s about the regional vaccine sites. For most of our over-80s, attendance at the Manchester city centre site is not a viable or safe option, and we will need a greater focus on more accessible and community-based sites if progress is to be made rapidly.

This letter reflects our commitment to play our part in the next stage of response to this terrible virus. A strong and flexible local response is critical to success, and we urge you to respond quickly to the issues we have raised.

Yours sincerely,

Councillor Sam Corcoran - Leader of the Council, Leader of the Labour Group Cheshire East Council

Councillor Craig Browne - Deputy Leader, Leader of the Independent Group Cheshire East Council

Councillor Louise Gittins - Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council

Councillor Russ Bowden - Leader of Warrington Borough Council

Clare Hayward MBE DL - Chair Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership

David Keane - Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire

Councillor Rob Polhill - Leader of Halton Borough Council

Photo: Councillor Sam Corcoran - Leader of the Council and Councillor Craig Browne - Deputy Leader (taken prior to the Covid pandemic.

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Comments

Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Tony Haluradivth
Friday 15th January 2021 at 9:23 am
Well now we know where Craig Browne stands and he has lost our family's vote. I did not immediately condemn him for his hypocrisy in breaking the rules in November when he was photographed doing so but now I wholeheartedly condemn him.
Dear Craig, sometimes us oldies HAVE TO DRIVE TO CLICK AND COLLECT groceries as there is no local provision to do so. Some of us have families who are NOT furloughed and need to work so they can provide food for their familes. Some of us have children on zero hours with young familes are are not on guaranteed Police or Public Sector salaries.
Craig Browne you were caught out , did not apologise and seem now to be doubling down and lashing out at your constituents by virtue of demanding tougher restrictions on us all . Craig the government say at the moment these restrictions are sufficient and this lockdown may last many weeks more than the last.
I see nothing but spite and contempt for voters in Cheshire East in this letter. You are not on our side clearly, and wish to
see many of us punished for your hubris
last November. If you had posted a brief apology the matter would not have built up such a huge head of steam. You like all of us are not above the rules Craig and it is pure arrogance to suggest otherwise. Most of us are obeying rules and distancing plus sanitising everything in sight. Those ( a minority) who break rules will always do so. My wife has an elderly lady friend she walks with it saves that lady's sanity as her son is in Canada.
Thanks Craig for showing your true colours. You have lost this family's vote forever. We have long memories.
From Tony
Craig Browne
Friday 15th January 2021 at 12:52 pm
Hi Tony,

Thank you for your comments. I would like to take this opportunity to offer some clarity on why I agreed to allow my name to be added to the letter; a decision that I did not take lightly. Whilst the headline states "Cheshire Leaders call for tighter lockdown restrictions" what the letter is really asking for is greater clarity around the current guidelines and restrictions.

The letter also asks government to carefully consider the current guidance on the education of children, which is putting schools (and particularly headteachers) in the unenviable position of having to interpret that guidance and adjudicate over which families may or may not send their children into school.

Further, the letter recognises the impact that restrictions are having on many of our local businesses and asks the government to give further thought to how these businesses may be supported both during the pandemic, but also as we move into recovery. Presumably this is why the Chair of the Local Enteprise Partnership also countersigned the letter.

We have also asked that greater consideration is given to plans leading us out of the current restrictions. Previously, residents from higher Tier areas were able to take advantage of the opportunity to travel into Cheshire in order to access hospitality venues which were open here, but not open within those higher Tier areas. We wish to avoid a repetition of this.

Finally, a number of residents are, I know, concerned about roll-out of the vaccination programme. I would like the Council to have some discretion (currently it has none) over the use of community venues, in an attempt to ensure that elderly residents in particular do not have to travel to receive their vaccine. This is something that the letter asks for.

I hope this helps to provide some clarity and rationale behind my decision to add my name to the letter. I would also like to apologise if my actions in doing so have caused some disappointment.

Kind regards,
Craig
Tony Haluradivth
Friday 15th January 2021 at 11:56 pm
Thanks for the response Craig and may I suggest you read the comments on Wilmslow.co.uk
Mark Russell
Sunday 17th January 2021 at 2:45 pm
Considering our deputy leader is supposed to be an “independent” he seems to toe the line with all the conservatives. Surly Craig should be looking at what’s best for us, the people that voted him in. Not what’s best for mandarins that haven’t a clue about real life.

He obviously thinks the rules are stupid, as he doesn’t follow them himself.

Stop the publicity in order to try and protect your seat and start managing. Try being a politician that makes positive change instead of sound bites to get your face in the paper, it will win you a lot more votes.

I can see big change coming at the elections in May, a lot of people are extremely angry and disappointed about the behaviour of our counsellors
Alan Brough
Sunday 17th January 2021 at 7:24 pm
@ Mark Russell,

I’m prepared to wager that Craig will retain the emphatic support of Alderley Edge residents based on the work that he has done on behalf of local people.

Personally, I’m prepared to forgive him the incredibly minor faux-pas of December - if indeed there was one.

I recall much darker issues with previous Parish Councillors ignoring and abusing local residents amidst more pungent accusations and I feel confident that we are in better hands.

That’s not to say that I don’t have significant issues with CE, but I believe that The Parish is in very good hands.
Pete Taylor
Sunday 17th January 2021 at 8:55 pm
@ Mark Russell; good to have you back from your "contributions holiday"; I believe that you were invited to stand for election (on the sister forum) for a vacant position on Wilmslow Town Council. Will you be accepting that invitation?
Mark Russell
Monday 18th January 2021 at 5:03 pm
Hi Alan,

This is from Craig’s manifesto back in 2015........

Speaking about the important issues facing Alderley Edge, Craig said "Parking is clearly an important issue at the moment. A new car park will provide a short-term solution; however, in the long-term this isn't sustainable, as we cannot keep laying more tarmac every few years. Also important is the Festival Hall, which should be a key community amenity over the next few years, but which risks becoming a white elephant, in the absence of a published business plan.

"Finally, there is the Local Plan, which will require strong, independent representation on Cheshire East Council to ensure that green belt land around Alderley Edge remains protected from development."

He added "If elected, I will work with my fellow Independent Councillors to ensure that a thorough and fully costed review of parking needs and solutions is carried out and that the most cost-effective option is then implemented. I would like the Festival Hall to be run as a Community Enterprise, with a Board of Trustees that includes talented people from across the village (not just Parish Councillors). Surplus revenue generated by the Festival Hall would then be re-invested in community projects, such as the Friends of Alderley Edge Park, or re-establishing the Village Enhancement Committee."

When asked why Alderley Edge residents should vote for him, Craig replied "I am seeking election as an Independent candidate, which means that I have no party-political affiliation and that my loyalty will be exclusively to the people of Alderley Edge, whom I wish to serve.

Mmmmmm, let’s look at his score card

Parking? FAIL

Serving Alderley edge? FAIL, just locked us down

Getting a power trip? Pass

Failing to follow laws he put on us with no consultation. PASS.

Putting up pretty flowers? Pass

I suppose it all depends what people want from their representatives.
Claire MacLeod
Tuesday 19th January 2021 at 3:47 pm
Blimey. Poor Craig seems not to be able to do right for doing wrong. First, we have Tony, a staunch Tory supporter (if I remember correctly), claiming his whole family will never vote for Craig again and threatening that they all have long memories. Then we have Mark accusing Craig of being in cahoots with the Tories.

Personally, I'm with Alan. I agree with him that I think the majority of residents of Alderley Edge are hugely supportive and grateful for everything that Craig has done and continues to do for our village. If he slipped up in December regarding the rules then I'm sure he's learned his lesson, given the public lynching a handful of outraged and indignant individuals have attempted to whip up. I know that I'm certainly not without sin (although I do my very best to follow the guidelines and rules, as best as I can). To which end, I support Craig and the other signatories' request that the government simplifies and clarifies the rules, the guidelines and the law, to make them easier for everyone to understand and follow.

I also appreciate the time that Craig takes in responding to comments like Tony's above which, frankly, reads more as a personal attack than a reasoned opinion. 'Spite' and 'contempt'? Really, Tony? As far as I can see, the only person 'lashing out' is you, by the tone of your comment and I commend Craig for maintaining his usual level of civility and courtesy in his response.
David Carey
Tuesday 19th January 2021 at 4:49 pm
Blimey, how short a memory do people have.
The last shower (politest word I could find) of councillors were about as contactable as an alien who lives on Neptune.
They never asked for opinions, views or gave any feedback at all, possibly a large reason why a group of people (including me) stormed their council meeting with placards and tried to ask why they railroaded important things through without any consultation at all!
Oh and yes, they were then drummed out suprise suprise, by the general public of Alderley Edge.
So sorry got to agree with Alan and Claire in that the majority of people will be emphatically behind the current councillors and Craig for what they have been doing....
Diana Bullock
Tuesday 19th January 2021 at 5:59 pm
I agree with Alan, Claire and David. I have known Craig for many years and I commend him for the work he has done.
Donald Strathdee
Tuesday 19th January 2021 at 6:32 pm
Sounds to me that the current lock down has left some with brain wash.

Be grateful for the leadership shown and start doing the brain stimulating quiz in the Times!!
Steve Scholes
Wednesday 20th January 2021 at 7:29 am
I write in support of Craig and also like David remember the last shower who were kicked out for being truly awful.
Tony and Mark the Covid denier and the wannabee Councillor both to be fair becoming irrelevant bores.
Pete Taylor
Wednesday 20th January 2021 at 10:54 am
@ Steve Scholes- I agree. Also, I think that to be elected as a Councillor, one has to live in that town.
Tony Haluradivth
Wednesday 20th January 2021 at 1:01 pm
Steve Scholes I suggest you too may be the "irrelevant bore", this is a local forum and we are entitled to comment. We are commenting on the uneccessary letter send by Craig and others at CEC demanding tougher restrictions than those currently in place. They jumped the gun and did not wait to see if numbers of cases decreased and they have ( by over 52% in parts of this area alone). This is not a comment on Craig's other abilities as an elected Councillor and perhaps they should spare a thought for those who are not on furlough in this area and have lost jobs or those who are struggling SMEs. Sam Corcoran claims a very generous expenses allowance (if you care to investigate) so we do not need his smug proselytizing.
Tony Haluradivth
Wednesday 20th January 2021 at 1:20 pm
Claire Macleod try a little lateral thinking and work out that one can vote Tory in a GE and Independent in a local election before you infer that some of us are telling Porkies . The numbers have fallen after 2 weeks of tough lockdown we do not need further restrictions as proposed by Corcoran or Craig, they should have had some patience.
Gratifying to see Craig's "fan club" out in force here and good to see some (like Steve Scholes) insulting those he disagrees with, (how inciteful, and so mature ;))
Yes, Craig should have apologised for a minor infraction of rules in November especially as he is now calling for tougher lockdown... hubris is not a good look . And if you care to look on Wilmslow.co.uk there is a lot of criticism directed at this letter. We are allowed to criticise any actions which affect Cheshire East as a whole, Craig does not just work for Alderley Edge.
Alan Brough
Wednesday 20th January 2021 at 4:01 pm
Tony,

You fail to grasp the very basics.

A drop in cases (from a record high level) is NOT the time to end lockdown.

About two weeks after a peak in case numbers, we will see a peak in hospitalisations. A further two or three weeks after that we will see a peak in deaths.

As I write this, today's death figure is confirmed as another record - at over 1800. It is likely that that daily number will continue to increase for at least another week or so.

Hospitals are dangerously close to being unable to provide critical care for a growing number of "clients." You must know this because you say (elsewhere) that you have family members involved in frontline NHS work.

You really mustn't let your somewhat dubious political agenda allow you to distort the very important messaging around the covid pandemic.
Tony Haluradivth
Wednesday 20th January 2021 at 7:32 pm
Alan Brough I have said nowhere in the post that lockdowns must end immediately, what I have said is that there is no need for tougher restrictions on those already imposed. It is NOT up to elected CEC officials to determine national policy. I have no dubious political agenda other than I despise authoritarianism and will happily not hitch my colours to any authoritarian mast Left or Right as it was a once popular authoritarian regime which murdered a good few relatives of mine.

I despise hypocrisy in our political class and if I wish to call out those who are acting in such a way that is my right. We here in the UK are vaccinating more than any other EU country and suggesting that a road map be laid leading us out of lockdown is no bad idea. Unfortunately the Vallances and Whittys of this world are moving the goalposts continuously and these people do NOT need any further help from our elected CEC represantatives. The High Court has dealt a well deserved blow on London's Mayor today and his emergency Covid cycle lanes , it might be wise for Mr Corcoran to take note.
Alan you just have to accept that there are a huge number of disparate views out there in the big wide world and we don't all inhabit the "Alan Brough echo chamber" ;)) Either stick your fingers in you ears and carry on calling us Trumpists, Tinfoil hat wearers or Flat Earthers ,double down on the insults if you like it just makes you come across as singularly immature OAPs
TTFN Tony

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