‘We were bullied and blackmailed over Tier 3 rules’, says South Ribble leader

Lancashire moved into Tier 3, the “Very high” alert level, from midnight this morning and the leader of South Ribble Borough Council feels like the county was “bullied and blackmailed” into accepting the restrictions.

Speaking to The Lancashire Post, several councils were pressing for a more generous funding package before agreeing to the measures yesterday.

Speaking to The LEP, Paul Foster said:

“The government basically said they would place residents into more draconian measures in those districts that didn’t agree to a deal.

“Several leaders held out because we needed a better outcome for our communities and business – the government could easily have afforded it, but wouldn’t support us.

“So when we said we couldn’t agree to something not in the interests of our community, they basically said: “Well, you will do, or we’ll do X,Y and Z to you.

“They were talking about isolating parts of Lancashire. Also, when we negotiated that our gyms and leisure centres could stay open across Lancashire – they turned round and said they’d close them in areas that did not agree to the rest of the deal.

“All any of us want is to protect our communities and ensure our businesses can continue – so we’ve got what we’ve got and now we’ll have to move on as best we can.”

Speaking on BBC Radio Lancashire, Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, said:

“In two weeks’ time, if we don’t do something about it, the hospitals in Lancashire are going to be over-run – and we shouldn’t be allowing petty party politics to put the people of Lancashire at risk.

“[Some leaders] seem to be asking for more and more to get the government to say we can’t agree to that.

“The deal that’s on the table now is a much better deal than was on the table 24 hours ago,” County Cllr Driver said.

The Tier 3 restrictions – which include a ban on household mixing in all indoor and most outdoor settings, with the exception of support bubbles – will come into force across Lancashire at midnight.

County Cllr Driver said after the agreement was reached: “Across Lancashire, the coronavirus situation is serious and getting worse. Lancashire’s leaders all agree that, as we approach winter, urgent action has to be taken now to ensure the county is not overwhelmed by the virus.

“After major negotiations with government, we have agreed a bespoke deal for Lancashire that means our businesses and residents will receive extra support that will not be available elsewhere in the country.

“I want to thank all of the Lancashire leaders for the constructive and meaningful discussions we have had over the past week. The deal has presented real challenges for some and they have only been able to sign up with reluctance, but we have been willing to work across party lines so that we can hammer this out with government.

“These new restrictions will affect us all, but we know they will be particularly harsh on those who make their living in our hospitality sector. It is a vital and valued part of our economy and we are all committed to maximising the support we can give as a result of this deal.”

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