West Yorkshire's Tier 3 standoff with Government intensifies as council leader says 'we know deaths will follow'

The standoff between the Government and West Yorkshire leaders over going into Tier 3 coronavirus restrictions has intensified as one council leader said there were still no answers on how the region would be supported by Whitehall.

Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 3:41 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 3:44 pm

Bradford Council’s Susan Hinchcliffe this afternoon said the Government was “unflinching in their resolve to put Bradford and West Yorkshire into Tier 3” but said there were still unanswered questions over how the area would be supported in the event.

Ms Hinchcliffe said she still needed to know what the exit strategy was from the restrictions - something more than 50 Tory MPs also called for this week.

And that she was also seeking guarantees on whether the restrictions would work, and contingency plans if they did not.

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Susan Hinchliffe is the leader of Bradford City Council

She also called for a “jobs and business recovery plan for the North”.

Leaders in West Yorkshire have been locked in talks with the Government over moving to Tier 3, the highest level of restrictions where meeting outdoors and indoors in banned and pubs have to close, for a number of days.

Ms Hinchcliffe said: “I am extremely concerned about the rising infection figures. Our hospitals are getting full and the number of vulnerable people contracting the virus is very high. We know that deaths will follow.”

She said: “Our local residents and our local businesses need certainty about whether we are going into Tier 3 or not.”

Ms Hinchcliffe said the Government had only “called us in for a meeting about Tier 3 at the beginning of this week”.

However the Prime Minister’s Official spokesman, as well as ministers in the House of Commons, had repeatedly said talks with West Yorkshire were ongoing over recent weeks. I

Ms Hinchcliffe said: “I know that continued national media stories have led residents and businesses to speculate for some time about whether West Yorkshire would be next after seeing neighbouring regions go into Tier 3.

“Crucially, it is still not clear what support the Government will make available to businesses by way of compensation across the region if we go into Tier 3.

“Government has told us that it is a ‘template package’ which has been given to other regions with no room for negotiation – the financial amount is fixed. Ministers have promised to clarify the support package for businesses in a further planned meeting.”

The stalemate draws parallels to that seen in Greater Manchester where metro mayor Andy Burnham demanded more support from Government, but was ultimately overruled by Whitehall.

The Department for Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

Ms Hinchcliffe’s statement comes after local leaders in Kirklees called for the district to avoid being placed in Tier 3 restrictions.

A statement by Kirklees Council’s Outbreak Control Board, including Labour MPs Tracy Brabin and Barry Sheerman and Conservative MPs Jason McCartney and Mark Eastwood, as well as cross-party councillors, said Tier 3 rules would have a “devastating effect” on the economy and mental health.

The statement said: “The closure of our pubs and bars will have a devastating impact on our economy and people’s livelihoods, and we have not seen the evidence that this will directly impact on infection rates.

“We instead need to continue the work we are doing at a local level, on the ground, in our communities. We are already seeing positive results from this work, with Kirklees now having the lowest rates in West Yorkshire. We’re urging the Government to give us more resources to build on this.

It added: “We’re concerned about the mental health of people in Kirklees, many of whom have been under local restrictions since July. Preventing people from visiting each other’s gardens will be a big blow during what is already a very difficult time.

“We also do not feel comfortable agreeing for Kirklees to enter Tier 3 without any indication of how we get out of these restrictions and how long they will last.”