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Tier-three negotiations for Preston and Lancashire continue as political leaders clash

Posted on - 16th October, 2020 - 10:25am | Author - | Posted in - Health, Politics, Preston Council, Preston News
St Walburge's and St Marks on Preston's skyline Pic: Tony Worrall
St Walburge’s and St Marks on Preston’s skyline Pic: Tony Worrall

The government continues to push for Lancashire, and Preston, to move into tier-three coronavirus restrictions.

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Leader of Lancashire County Council Geoff Driver has indicated ‘a deal is on the table’.

Update: It was confirmed during Friday morning that Lancashire will move to tier-three restrictions

During interviews on Graham Liver’s BBC Lancashire breakfast show both county councillor Driver and Preston City Council’s leader councillor Matthew Brown gave an insight into the discussions on the Zoom calls.

The government is understood to be wanting the whole county to move into tier-three, with Lancashire pushing for a £50m funding support package to help businesses and the county’s most vulnerable.

Read more: Latest Preston and South Ribble coronavirus infection rates

Tier-three restrictions would see tighter rules around household mixing, the closure of non-food pubs and bars and potential closures of other leisure and hospitality businesses.

A decision had been expected during Thursday (15 October) when Health secretary addressed the House of Commons, but he said negotiations were continuing with Greater Manchester and Lancashire.

Preston and Lancashire moved into tier-two restrictions during Wednesday (14 October).

Align with Manchester?

Greater Manchester’s Mayor, Andy Burnham, made an impassioned speech during Thursday afternoon accusing the government of bullying ‘the North West’.

But Cllr Driver spoke out against any move to align Lancashire with Greater Manchester’s approach.

He said: “No we’re not a canary down a coalmine. It’s a sad fact that some people are trying to play politics.

“I am really disappointed that some of my colleagues in Lancashire are doing the same.

Cllr Driver said latest meetings on the negotiations ran until 11.15pm on Thursday and back in at 7am on Friday – and the Zoom calls would continue throughout Friday.

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A good deal scuppered?

He said: “We’re adjourned so the latest deal can be put back to officers and the government.

“I really do hope that the deal isn’t scuppered, because of some unrealistic demands being made by my colleagues.

“It’s a really good deal which has been negotiated with the government. The people of Lancashire will suffer if this deal is scuppered.

“What we’ve got to try and do is get the best package to help everyone through being in tier-three.”

Councillor Geoff Driver Pic: Lancashire County Council
Councillor Geoff Driver Pic: Lancashire County Council

Cllr Driver said if no deal and change in restrictions were reached then Lancashire’s hospitals would be ‘over-run’.

He said the deal was ‘substantially better’ than the deal from the government offered 24-hours before.

Some reprieve for the leisure sector?

Cllr Driver also indicated that on the three discretionary areas of the restrictions, such as pubs closures, leisure sector closures and tourist attractions then the restrictions would ‘not be the same as seen in Liverpool’ suggesting Lancashire had won some concessions.

You can vote in our poll below on what you think should happen next

Labour and Tory tensions

Earlier on the Graham Liver show Preston City Council’s leader councillor Matthew Brown had hit out at the way the negotiations had been carried out.

Cllr Matthew Brown, said: “There’s lots of things that I’m not particularly happy about.

“We’re not going to have the support for businesses and for the most vulnerable.

“If they are going to impose restrictions like this they must look after the community.

“We could be in these for months.

“Myself and a number of others we do have concerns about it.

“My own feeling is we’re going to be in it very soon. It’s either going to be imposed or hold out for the best settlement.

“I am not happy about how we’ve been treated. I feel like we’ve been bullied.

“When we had our first meeting on Friday night they couldn’t even explain to us what tier-three was.

“It’s just unfair. We shouldn’t just be accepting a second-rate offer from the government, but we may have no choice.”

“The strategy that’s on offer seems to have on offer. At first it was ‘let’s close the pubs’, but now it seems they want to go further.

“I’m minded to support a national lockdown, because that would be better than this. Otherwise we could be here next March having the same conversation.

“Our communities have had decades of austerity. It’s going to escarabate it.”

Councillor Matthew Brown
Councillor Matthew Brown

Read more: Preston City Council’s leader joins calls for ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown

Labour’s Cllr Brown indicated a decision was due in ‘a matter of hours’.

Will extra restrictions work?

Cllr Brown said: “We’ve had two months of interventions in Preston. Throughout those weeks we’ve been putting forward public health asks, more money for helping businesses. And now suddenly at the last-minute they are making this offer. It’s putting us into a really difficult situation.

“We are united that this is a really difficult situation, I wouldn’t say we’re unified across Lancashire leaders.

“Some like myself want to stand with Greater Manchester and others say they want to take the best deal.”

Cllr Brown also said there was no decision on whether it would be ‘county-wide’.

Read more: See the latest Preston news and headlines

What do you make of Cllr Driver and Cllr Brown’s comments? Should we be tier-two or tier-three? Or something else? Let us know in the comments below

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