Rushcliffe Borough Council leader Simon Robinson concerned local lockdown measures will not be enough
The leader of one of the areas affected by the new tier three restrictions has said he has some concerns that the new measures will not be sufficient to bring the virus under control.
Simon Robinson, the Conservative leader of Rushcliffe Borough Council, said he had aimed to balance the importance of virus control, the economy and people’s wellbeing, but that it might not go far enough to get the virus rates down.
He said one of the areas being looked at was alcohol sales from shops, in a bid to stop illicit house parties.
This is yet to be confirmed by the Government, but Mr Robinson said it was being looked at by Home Office lawyers.
He said: “First and foremost I just want to say how disappointed and upset I am that we’re having to go into tier three after all the sacrifices of business and residents that started last March.
“But, I do believe this is the best way to get on top of the virus.”
He said one of the changes which had been suggested to the government, and was now being considered, surrounded the sale of alcohol.
He said: “We are looking at the retailing of alcohol, and changes with that, and that will probably be the most controversial.
“There is work going on at the minute in terms of legislation on how we can work with that.”
Asked which premises this would apply to, he said: “It will be everywhere alcohol is sold, so things like supermarkets, Tesco Express and all those sorts of things.
“The main thing is looking to see if there can be any restrictions, to stop things like house parties, where you can come out of a restaurant at 10pm with the curfew and then go and buy alcohol, for instance.
“It’s the retailing of alcohol which the lawyers are looking at at the moment.”
Asked about exactly what form any new restrictions could take, Mr Robinson said: “No, it’s one of the big ones that’s really testing the Home Office, because you’ve got licensing law as well, so they’re working on what changes they can make to that.
“The driver to this is trying to stop the whole house party issue. But it hasn’t been fully defined yet, so that will come out tonight (when an announcement is expected from the government).
“We have made a proposal but it’s up to the Home Office at the moment to look at it and see where it fits.”
Asked if he could outline exactly what the proposal put forward was, he said: “I can’t at the moment, because obviously we don’t know if it’s going to go through or not. It might cause too many issues if it doesn’t go through.”
Speaking about the overall package of measures, which will mean gyms, theatres, cinemas and hairdressers can remain open, he said: “Underpinning it from Rushcliffe’s point of view was threefold.
“Firstly were measures that would get us on top of the virus. Number two was still being able to keep an economy, so wherever possible trying to keep business open, and thirdly, which was very important, was residents’ wellbeing, and mental health.
“So leisure centres, for example, would fall into that category, to give people the chance to go out and exercise.
“Those were the three things that underpinned the discussions, and I’m happy that when we see the restrictions in full they will fulfil that purpose.”
“They (government lawyers) have had to work really hard to make sure the legal definitions are well-thought-out, for instance, what’s the difference between a restaurant and a café, so that we (Rushcliffe Borough Council) can enforce and the police can enforce. That’s why they need to make sure these legal definitions are correct.
“What we have got to understand is that some people won’t be going to work on Thursday, that’s the bottom line of this, so it’s really sensitive, that’s why we need to make sure those definitions are exactly correct, and why they’re taking more time with it.
“Businesses will fit into three categories. There will be the ones that can continue anyway, so they’re ok, there are the ones with restricted capacity, so restaurants and hospitality, and there are the ones that have to close completely.
“We are absolutely desperate to get that money out to the business as quickly as possible.
"By tonight people are going to be absolutely on the floor, and we’ve got a very big team at Rushcliffe, literally all on standby now as soon as that money comes through to actually get it out to our businesses.”
Asked if he was relatively comfortable with the financial support being put forward by the Government, he said: “I am. It’s consistent with what’s been offered to the northern areas, Lancashire, Liverpool.
“Obviously it’s never enough, councils will always want more.
“There are two funds, the first is for enforcement, things like Test and Trace, police and environmental health officers etcetera, and the second is for business support.”
On the geography of the new restrictions, he said: “There was a lot of discussion about whether the remaining districts (Ashfield, Bassetlaw, Mansfield and Newark and Sherwood) should come into this. The discussions were based on the data and the transport links.
“The government at the moment wanted to focus on the three boroughs and the city. They ultimately made that decision that it would be the four councils that would go into Tier 3.
“The other districts have been spoken to, and their numbers are getting worse, so they are being kept under very close review now, and we could see some change, but there is direct communication between the government and those district leaders.”
Asked if he was comfortable the measures due to be announced will go far enough to bring the infection rates under control, he said: “I do have a concern about the restrictions. It’s not a lockdown, it’s a restriction, but I go back to what I said about the three determining factors – getting on top of the virus; the economy and the mental and physical health.
“The issue will be if we don’t get on top of the virus fast enough.
“We cannot plateau. We have to reduce. It’s not a case of just reducing the increases, we have to bring it down, and that’s my concern — will the measures go far enough.
“But they are keeping it under review. So the 28-day sunset clause, that has to be physically renewed after that, although up to that point there’s going to be very regular reviews of the data, both at the hospitals at the top infection levels and also the over 60s infection rate.
“The basket of data that’s taken us in (to tier three) is the same basket of data that will take us out.
“So we have got to see improvements in things like the number of beds occupied by Covid patients, the number of people going onto ventilators and ICU, the infection rates.
“So what will get us out is improvements in all the data.”
Asked whether measures could become stricter if the key data do not move in the right direction, he said: “The only option at the moment is to extend past the 28 days.
“But I wouldn’t rule out if extra restrictions have to be brought in.
“The restrictions we have brought in are only for a 28-day period. But there is that flexibility that additional restrictions could be brought in after that date, and extended into December.
“I asked the question if there was a tier four, and the government minister said ‘not to his knowledge’.”