Council leaders in England were notified five minutes before local lockdown rules have been confirmed in their areas, according to emails seen by The Guardian.
Amid growing calls by local authorities for more control over the restrictions, Keir Starmer, leader of the Labor Party, is urging ministers to put councils “in the driver’s seat”.
Only the Hartlepool and Middlesbrough Houses have been informed of the confirmed details of Suggested restrictions When they received a draft press release from the Department of Health and Welfare (DHSC) at 10.25 a.m. Thursday, five minutes before taking action Announced by Matt HancockLeaked emails indicate.
In Merseyside, where there were new rules, too Announced on ThursdayIt is understood that the councilors were briefed about the actions 30 minutes before Hancock’s statement. A high-ranking source said they were surprised and worried that the rules had been “relaxed” from what had been discussed with a minister only 12 hours ago.
Restrictions are a major extension of national measures and Make it illegal For families in areas to socialize in any indoor setting, including pubs, bars, restaurants and cinemas. The legislation will apply to nearly 5 million people across Merseyside, Warrington and most of Northeast England starting Saturday. The Department of Homeland Security said that discussions with local leaders took place over a period of several days.
a star He called for a change After a week of “extreme frustration,” he said, with the local authorities. “The message to the government is: Engage local leaders, whether they are council leaders or mayors, more intensively and much earlier. Because what happens is sometimes consulting, and sometimes not.”
Andy Preston, Mayor of Middlesbrough, He said There was a “terrible and frightening lack of communication” from the government, which showed “disregard for local expertise, local knowledge and local need.”
Earlier this week, Nick Forbes, the leader of Newcastle City Council, accused ministers of creating “Chaos and confusion“By making important announcements that affect millions of people without properly consulting local leaders.
Local leaders say it is vital that they closely participate in decisions, not least because it is often the first port of call for residents trying to understand new guidelines.
The emails show that a senior DHSC official wrote to Hartlepool and Middlesbrough Councils on Wednesday evening to say that Hancock wanted them to provide “written assurance” that the leaders “have participated in and understood the proposed actions.”
Hartlepool officials responded, saying it was not clear what measures were being proposed and that they would not agree to restrictions “that appear to be proposed to us” that would make any household mixing illegal in pubs, bars and restaurants.
Council leaders were understood to be left in the dark until a draft press release was sent out by a Department of Homeland Security official at the same time that Hancock was announcing the new rules in the House of Commons on Thursday.
Hartlepool officials called for the ad to be withdrawn pending further discussion. However, by that time, the measures were announced live.
Requests for an urgent phone call to the Health Secretary were rejected as Hancock was still on his feet in the House of Commons. The leaders then voiced their anger in a phone call with Junior Health Secretary Helen Whatley.
The announcement also sparked frustration on Merseyside. Six local council leaders and Steve Rotherham, mayor Liverpool The city district had been in contact with DHSC ministers and officials and Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, throughout the week but was left in the dark about the details of the procedures even just before it was announced.
In contrast to Hartlepool and Middlesbrough, Merseyside leaders have been eager to introduce tougher measures than those proposed by the government. Injury rates have risen in the region since the start of September, with Liverpool and Knowsley recording the highest infection rates in England, five times the national average.
Merseyside officials have asked the Department of Homeland Security to quickly provide the scientific evidence behind these measures and significantly increase financial support for the area.
A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security said: “It is wrong to claim that the councils were only given short notice because discussions and participation were actually going on for several days. We understand how much these measures have been imposed but they are based on the latest scientific evidence and they are in place to suppress the virus, and protect us all while doing everything. What is possible to support the economy. “