Local politicians fought for ‘good deal’ for county during tier 3 pandemic restrictions

Posted on - 4th December, 2023 - 8:00am | Author - | Posted in - Preston News
The Covid vaccination queuing area outside Preston Bus Station and opposite the NHS hub in St John's Pic: Tony Worrall
The Covid vaccination queuing area outside Preston Bus Station Pic: Tony Worrall

A Lancashire council leader has insisted that local politicians fought for “a good deal” for the county when it was faced with tough Covid restrictions at the height of the pandemic.

It comes after it emerged that there was a perception within government at the time that the area was more compliant with ministerial demands than neighbouring Greater Manchester.

Alistair Bradley, the leader of Chorley Council, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that Lancashire’s 15 local authorities had engaged with the government on the basis “that they were going to do this to us anyway”.

Read more: Hundreds of homes set for mill site among most forgotten parts of Preston city centre

He was referring to the time in October 2020 when the localised system of Covid ‘tiers’ was introduced in an attempt to stem rapidly rising infection rates by imposing restrictions of different degrees throughout the country depending on how bad things were in each area.

The policy has been the subject of scrutiny at the Covid-19 Inquiry in recent days, with the then health secretary Matt Hancock saying on Friday that some regional leaders “were not constructive” during discussions about its implementation.

Earlier in the week, minutes from the government’s high-level Covid-O committee were read out by Greater Manchester’s metro mayor Andy Burnham – who had a standoff with the government over moving his patch into the toughest ‘Tier 3’ band – in which it was stated that: “Lancashire should have a lighter set of measures imposed than Greater Manchester since they had shown a greater willingness to co-operate.”

Cllr Bradley, who also chairs the Lancashire district leaders group, said that it would have been “absolutely wrong” to determine restrictions for such a reason.  However, he added that Lancashire’s leaders had battled hard to get the best package of financial support for the county – knowing that the most restrictive rules were always likely to come the county’s way because of high Covid case numbers.

“[The conversation with the government] was: ‘You’re going to do this to us anyway, so how are you going to make reparation to people in those communities?’

“We couldn’t get away from the numbers, they were always going to put us in that bracket – so we were asking, ‘Can we have this?’ and ‘Can we do [it] this way?’

“Andy Burnham had to speak up for all of Manchester and we had to speak up for all of Lancashire.  But sometimes you had to be very robust with the government and sometimes government took that personally,” Cllr Bradley said.

He added that all 15 Lancashire leaders “pulled together” in a way he had never witnessed before.  However, he also acknowledged that politics may have played a part in how Lancashire was viewed by ministers because Lancashire County Council – as one of the leading authorities in the tier discussions – was Conservative controlled and so requests for support may have been “expressed” in a different way.

In spite of the sentiment minuted at the Covid-O committee, Lancashire was not treated any differently to Greater Manchetser in terms of restrictions – with both areas ultimately being placed in Tier 3 and seeing socialising between different households banned in indoor and many outdoor settings.    For Lancashire, the rules came into force on 17th October, after a week of intense negotiations ended in agreement over a support package, while Greater Manchester was moved into the top tier just days later after their talks broke down.

The one notable difference for Lancashire when it first entered Tier 3 was actually in contrast not with Greater Manchester, but the Liverpool City Region, which had agreed to the highest level of restrictions slightly sooner and had been told that its gyms had to close – whereas in Lancashire, along with Greater Manchester, such facilities were allowed to remain open.

Somewhat paradoxically in view of the uproar that that decision caused on Merseyside at the time, Matt Hancock used his appearance at the Covid Inquiry on Friday to praise Liverpool’s leaders as being “easier to deal with” than those in Greater Manchester.

When the tiered system returned after a hiatus during a second nationwide lockdown in November 2020, Lancashire returned to Tier 3 – but was moved into a new Tier 4 just 48 hours before the end of the year.   A third national lockdown then began in early January 2021.

Parts of Lancashire – Preston, Blackburn, Burnley, Pendle and Hyndburn – had been in some form of ‘local lockdown’ since the summer, long before tiers were introduced, because of particularly high case rates in those areas.

Subscribe: You can now opt-in to receive Blog Preston news updates through Whatsapp via this link.

Read moreSee the latest Preston news and headlines

Preston in pictures 155 345 1XXX 08XX leeds - Blackpool North awaits time at Preston (10XX) Tuesday 23rd May 1989Preston City Mela 2024Preston City Mela 2024Preston City Mela 2024Preston City Mela 2024Preston City Mela 2024Preston City Mela 2024Preston City Mela 2024 View more
Subscribe to the newsletter

Sign up below to receive Blog Preston's email newsletter. It wings its way into inboxes every Sunday and Wednesday rounding up our top stories and more.

News by location

Find news by location, select an area of your choice to be kept up to date with the latest goings on.

The Preston Guide

Discover local businesses and services near you.


Find news by category, select an category of your choice to be kept up to date with the latest goings on.

Blog Preston email updates

Receive our digest of the biggest and best stories every Sunday to your email inbox

We respect your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time from our emails