I’ve written to the Prime Minister to express my immense disappointment at Blackpool being placed in Tier 3. My full thoughts are below:
I know that the decision to place Blackpool into Tier 3 will be disappointing for many local residents and businesses. I share your frustration at the continuing impact that these restrictions will have upon our lives, especially at this time of year when we look forward to seeing family and friends over the Christmas period.
Our local infection rate has reduced significantly over the last month following the different restrictions we’ve had and so I had been making the case to ministers that we should have been placed in Tier 2 as a result. However, as a consequence of the restrictions being applied on a county wide level, we have been placed in Tier 3 because of the higher infection rates across Lancashire as a whole. In addition to the higher infection rates in East Lancashire, I understand that the number of Covid patients in our local hospitals, and the relative lack of further capacity, was another reason why we have been placed into Tier 3.
As disappointing as this decision is, it will be reviewed after 2 weeks on 16th December. If our infection rate reduces further (both among the whole community and those aged over 65) and the number of patients admitted to hospital also falls, then there is every chance that we will move down into Tier 2 at some point. To enable us to do this, I strongly feel that the approach of applying restrictions on a county-wide level needs to change. It is completely unfair to punish one part of a county for high infection rates elsewhere. The solid progress we are making in Blackpool should be rewarded by allowing us to move down the tiers, if the data continues to improve, regardless of the position some 35 miles away in the east of the county. I am already speaking to ministers about the criteria they are looking for, and the progress we need to make, to allow us to be able to be treated separately from Lancashire as a whole. I will continue to make these arguments as robustly as I can.
There are some important changes in Tier 3 compared with the national lockdown at present. I welcome the fact that the reduction in restrictions means that shops, hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and churches (to name a few) can all reopen. I’m bitterly disappointed that hospitality businesses still cannot do so and I am already speaking to ministers about the level of financial support for those who will continue to be affected by these restrictions. I’ll do everything I can to get as much support as possible for those who continue to be affected, over and above the tens of millions of pounds which local businesses have already received. I know how difficult the restrictions are proving for many businesses and I recognise the significant impact they are having on our local economy. Although the financial packages of support will help many, I am urging the government to make further discretionary funding available to the council so that it can set up support packages for those who don’t automatically receive grants when we enter Tier 3 (e.g. those without fixed property costs and supply chain businesses).
As bitterly disappointing as this decision is, we will not be in Tier 3 indefinitely. The rollout of rapid testing is starting, track and trace is improving, and the long-awaited vaccine will start to be rolled out before Christmas. These developments will help us to gradually get back to normal life, but in the short-term, I once again ask for your support in abiding by the new restrictions so we can work together as a community and continue to drive down our local rate of infection which will allow us to make a strong case for moving to Tier 2.