Call for proper support as Northumberland joins in North East call for tougher restrictions

Alnwick town centre.Alnwick town centre.
Alnwick town centre.
The Government must provide proper support for businesses if stricter Covid-19 measures are to be reintroduced, a Northumberland councillor has said.

Possible measures that could be introduced include reduced operating hours for pubs, restaurants, takeaways and cafés, and stricter limits on the number of people allowed to visit others not in their household or support bubble.

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New restrictions and where they apply will be announced once they have been agreed.

Cllr Steven Bridgett, the ward member for Rothbury.Cllr Steven Bridgett, the ward member for Rothbury.
Cllr Steven Bridgett, the ward member for Rothbury.

Nationally, it is understood to be the first instance of neighbouring authorities uniting to lobby for stricter lockdown restrictions ahead of them being imposed by the Government.

Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and South Tyneside were placed on Public Health England’s watchlist for increased coronavirus support last week.

Ahead of that, Northumberland’s director of public health, Liz Morgan, had warned that a number of the region’s authorities were set to join the list, although Northumberland and Durham were less likely to at that point.

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However, she added: “But if things continue, we may well be in the same position over the next few days or weeks.”

Northumberland’s acting council leader, Glen Sanderson, has contacted the county’s MPs to brief them on the situation.

Reacting to the news that the councils were seeking greater controls, Cllr Steven Bridgett, the ward councillor for Rothbury, said: “I agree that tougher local lockdown measures may potentially be required and you have my support in that endeavour, but granting new powers to local councils without giving them the proper funding that will be required to implement and oversee said measures is like giving someone a butter knife to chop down a tree.

“If the Government intends to impose more local lockdowns, the £333 a week it intends to give the vast majority of local businesses in my area, in the form of a grant, is going to result in many of the local businesses in my area, particularly those involved in the tourism and hospitality sector, actually going out of business.

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“For those at the higher end of the rateable value spectrum, £15,000-£51,000, that £333 a week really is not going to cut it and could literally put Northumberland’s tourism economy back by a decade and result in closures on a scale the likes of which we have never seen before.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Steve Barclay has announced businesses in England required to close due to local lockdowns or targeted restrictions will be able to receive grants worth up to £1,500 every three weeks.

The £1,500 figure is for those with a rateable value of £51,000 or above, while those under that threshold would receive £1,000 every three weeks.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr Barclay also reiterated the recent commitment to roll out additional payments for people on low incomes who are required to self-isolate in areas with high levels of Covid-19.

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