Lancashire Has Moved Into Tier 3 Lockdown Amid Anger Their Gyms Can Stay Open But Liverpool’s Can’t
Gyms are closed in Liverpool but they will not have to shut in Lancashire either (PA)
Lancashire has become the second area to go into the highest lockdown tier - but unlike in Liverpool, the area's gyms can stay open.
The moves has sparked anger on Merseyside, with local leaders accusing the government of a “shambles” and creating “Tier 3 A and Tier 3 B”.
After much speculation this morning the department for health and social care confirmed “following close discussions with local leaders” Lancashire is moving from the “high” set of measures to the “very high” group from midnight tonight.
The baseline restrictions see all indoor gatherings banned and residents advised against non-essential travel, but then there are a series of optional policies, such as closing pubs and bars which cannot operate as a restaurant, as well as casinos, betting shops, bingo halls and car boot sales, which will also be in force.
Gyms and leisure centres can also be asked to close, but the guidance on Lancashire does not mention them, whereas when the regulations on Liverpool were released on Monday they were included.
It has led the city’s mayor Joe Anderson to tweet: "Liverpool City Region has demanded immediate clarification on why Lancashire gyms are allowed to stay open and Liverpool's close.
"Inconsistent mess, we now have Tier 3 A and Tier 3 B. Are gym users in Lancashire more safer than those in Liverpool region?"
And Wirral Council leader Jan Williamson posted: "As Liverpool City Region leaders we demanding the evidence from Government immediately as to why our gyms have had to shut and Lancashire can keep theirs open.
"We need fairness and consistency, what we have is a shambles."
Explaining the situation Geoff Driver, leader of Lancashire County Council, told the BBC: "It's been a long drawn out process but I think we've got a good deal."
"What we've been able to do is to convince government that the measures we have in place to monitor such things as the gyms and the leisure centres are sufficient to ensure that they're not a source of infection."
The government will also be providing a support package worth £12million for the county to compensate those businesses and workers affected by the measures.
The health secretary Matt Hancock said: "An unrelenting rise in cases in Lancashire means we must act now, and we have worked intensively with local leaders to agree on additional restrictions.
"I know how heavy these additional challenges will weigh on everyday life for the people of Lancashire but they are critical in bringing this virus under control.
"Without them, we risk the health of your loved ones, your most vulnerable, and your local NHS services.
"Now is the time to play your part, and we will make sure you are supported."
The areas going into Tier 3, which will be reviewed every fortnight, cover all parts of Lancashire, including: Burnley, Blackburn with Darwen, Blackpool, Chorley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Lancaster, Pendle, Preston, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South Ribble, West Lancashire and Wyre.
Despite the government saying this was agreed with local leaders is believed some were "reluctant" to go along with it, as Blackpool Council leader Lynn Williams told the Mirror authorities were "bullied" into the move.
Leader of South Ribble Borough Council Paul Foster said: "As leaders throughout Lancashire, we have been negotiating in really good faith with the Government for over a week now because many of us believe, and still believe, what the Government is proposing will only have minimal if any impact on the strength of the virus.
"What will happen though is a number of businesses will now be forced to close and we are desperately, desperately upset at the financial and the mental anguish this will cause to a number of people.
"We got to a situation this morning where basically - and I don't use these words lightly - the Government blackmailed and forced us into agreeing to the terms they were offering to the point if we didn't agree they were basically going to place more draconian measures on you all.
"We could not accept that so therefore I very reluctantly agreed to the terms of the Government's deal."
Asked about the comments, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "He (Boris Johnson) is very grateful that those council leaders in Lancashire have worked in consultation with the Government and have come on board.
"We want to continue to work with local authorities in other areas where we have significant concerns in order to seek to put in place further measures to control the virus.”
It comes after Greater Manchester is continuing to resist entering Tier 3, after mayor Andy Burnham accused the government of treating the North "with contempt” and trying out policies “on the cheap”.
"We have to protect the health of the nation but let's do it as one nation, and not make the North of England the sacrificial lamb for an ill-thought-through Downing Street policy which doesn't make sense in the real world," he said.
After the news Lancashire was being placed under further restrictions he issued a joint statement with Jamie Driscoll, mayor of North Tyne and Steve Rotheram, mayor of Liverpool City Region repeating their call for an improved financial package.
”The government is claiming that the North is divided and only interested in getting what we can for our own region,” it said. ”That is simply not the case.
"We are all united in fighting for an 80% furlough scheme for all people affected by regional lockdowns, wherever they are in the country.
“Paying two-thirds of salaries will not be enough to protect the jobs of thousands - it should at least match the 80 per cent that was available under furlough, with the minimum wage as the minimum support.