Lancashire leaders say they have been ‘blackmailed and bullied’ into imposing the most severe coronavirus restrictions on residents.
The county will move to a tier three lockdown from midnight tonight with towns including Blackpool, Preston and Blackburn joining Liverpool City in the ‘very high’ category.
A deal is said to have been thrashed out with Downing Street last night despite fierce opposition.
South Ribble, Preston and Pendle Council leaders ‘resisted’ Lancashire moving from tier two but claim they were warned their towns would become ‘an island’ and ‘isolated’ if they refused to cooperate. But Number 10 insisted it had worked ‘in consultation’ with councils.
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Preston City Council leader, Matthew Brown, told how he fought ‘to the bitter end’ for adequate support to be provided by the Government including a more generous job support scheme.
But he said ultimately, he was ‘left with no choice’. He told Lancs Live: ‘They have bullied us into a position where we have got a poor deal and it would have been even poorer if we stayed out of it.
‘I was told we’d be an island where people potentially couldn’t travel outside of the city.’
South Ribble Council’s leader, Paul Foster, also slammed the Government’s lack of support, claiming the Treasury could ‘easily afford it’.
‘They basically said they would place residents into more draconian measures in those districts that didn’t agree to a deal.
‘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”’.
Meanwhile Pendle leader, Councillor Mohammed Iqbal, reiterated the bullying claims and insisted the deal would not work.
He said: ‘Lancashire leaders have been bullied by 10 Downing Street into accepting a deal that all sides know isn’t enough to stop the virus.’
The decision, announced this morning, will prevent residents from socialising with other households and force hundreds of bars and pubs that don’t serve food to close.
Leaders fear it will crush the already fragile economy in the region and could leave people destitute.
When quizzed about allegations of bullying, the Prime Minister’s 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.’
The spokesperson insisted that the Government’s approach throughout was to ‘work constructively with local authorities’ to ensure people received the ‘right level of support’.
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