The leader of Trafford Council has hit out at the government’s “haphazard and nakedly political approach” that will see local lockdown restrictions lifted in the borough tomorrow – despite a “near 100%” rise in coronavirus cases over the past week.
Cllr Andrew Western has written a strongly-worded letter to Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health, in which he “urgently” requests clarity on the government’s plan as Trafford’s infection rate rose to 35.81 cases per 100,000 population as of August 28th, up 89% week on week.
On Friday, Western confirmed that the borough would be released from Greater Manchester’s lockdown measures after seeing its request for an extension overruled by government. The decison was backed by local MP Sir Graham Brady.
In his letter to Hancock, Western confirmed that his recommendation was for at least a further two-week extension, in line with the view of Trafford’s Director of Public Health, Eleanor Roaf.
And he said he was “very disappointed” that those representations had been “completely ignored”.
“This complete lack of regard for the views of local representatives as well as our local public health officials only serves to exacerbate fears that national government never intended to meaningfully consider such views, but rather to only have regard for the views of Conservative MPs in the areas affected,” Western wrote today.
He added: “Involving MPs in this way was always a recipe for disaster and sadly Trafford has paid the price for this purely political calculation. Doing what is right rather than what is popular is imperative in these difficult times and despite Trafford’s attempts to do what we thought was in the best interests of our residents, you failed to support that decision in favour of taking the easy option.”
And he claimed that nobody in Hancock’s team had the “basic courtesy” to explain the decision to the council, which he claimed was a “significant failure and a further show of disrespect to local government”.
From tomorrow, residents in Trafford will be able to meet with other households indoors and in their gardens once more, while maintaining social distancing.
But Western said this lifting of restrictions came just as Trafford’s infection rate rose beyond neighbouring boroughs.
He said: “Trafford has now returned to the Government’s own amber zone in terms of cases per 100,000 population, and now has a significantly higher rate of cases than some other Greater Manchester boroughs who are not due to see restrictions lifted tomorrow.
“In short, this decision has caused chaos and confusion that not only impacts potentially on the health of my residents but on the likelihood of compliance in neighbouring boroughs that now have a lower rate of infection than Trafford.”
He added: “I must therefore request an urgent update as to your intentions given the changing picture here in Trafford, and an action plan setting out next steps.”
Last week, Brady defended his support for the lifting of restrictions by saying that “in most wards with any infection at all it will be down to a single household, and hospital admissions continue to fall.
“Making it illegal for people to see their families seems like an extreme measure in these circumstances.”