Lancashire leaders say they have been ‘blackmailed and bullied’ for imposing the most severe coronavirus restrictions on their residents.
Cities including Blackpool, Preston and Blackburn will move to the county from midnight on three levels of locks by joining Liverpool City in the ‘Very High’ category.
It is said that a deal was struck with Downing Street last night despite strong opposition.
Leaders of the South Rebel, Preston and Pendle Council ‘resisted’ the move to move Lancashire from the two-tier but claimed that their cities would become ‘an island’ and ‘isolated’ if they refused to cooperate. Number ten, however, emphasized that it had acted in ‘consultation’ with the council.
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Matthew Brown, leader of Preston City Council, explained how he fought the ‘severe consequences’ of providing adequate support from the government, including more liberal job assistance projects.
But in the end, he said, he was “without a choice.” He told Lanx Live: ‘They took us to a position where we made a bad deal and it would have been poorer if we had stayed away from it.
‘I was told we would be an island where people could not possibly travel outside the city.’
Paul Foster, leader of the South Rebel Council, also strongly condemned the government’s lack of support, claiming that the Treasury could “easily afford” it.
‘They basically said that the agreement they would not agree to in the districts would give them a place in the more stringent measures.
‘So when we said we couldn’t agree on anything that wasn’t in our community’s interest, they basically said: “Well you do, or we’ll do you X, Y and Z”.
Pendle’s leader, Councilor Mohammad Iqbal, meanwhile, reiterated his call for barbarism and insisted the deal would not take effect.
He said: ‘Lancashire leaders have been treated intellectually by 10 Downing Street for recognizing a deal that all parties know is not enough to stop the virus.’
The decision, announced this morning, will prevent residents from socializing with other families and force hundreds of bars and pubs to close.
Leaders fear it will already crush the region’s fragile economy and impoverish people.
When asked about the rape allegations, the PM’s spokesman said: ‘I am very grateful that these Lancashire council leaders have worked in consultation with the government and come to the board.
“We want to continue working with local authorities in other areas where we have significant concerns about taking further steps to control the virus.”
The spokesman stressed that the local approach of the government was to ‘work constructively with the local authorities’ to ensure that people get ‘the right level of support’.
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