Business leaders back rebellious Middlesbrough mayor: Defiant leader is praised for rejecting lockdown as some residents vow to ignore new restrictions amid warning that quarter of pubs in England will be shut for good by restrictions
- Andy Preston lashed out at ministers for ‘monstrous and frightening lack of communication and ignorance’
- Lockdown starts Saturday morning – one minute past midnight – and will ban people from meeting indoors
- Similar measures in Hartlepool, Warrington and the Liverpool City Region will come into force at same time
Locals in Middlesbrough have rallied around their rebellious mayor after he vowed to defy the Government’s lockdown to protect the ‘jobs and mental health’ of residents.
Andy Preston, an Independent, lashed out at ministers for their ‘monstrous and frightening lack of communication and ignorance’ in the strongest backlash yet against local lockdowns, which now cover 20million people – nearly a third of the UK population.
Constituents backed him for ‘sticking up for people and trying to stop businesses going bust’ and said they would rather listen to a local leader than ‘some muppet in Westminster’.
The economic cost the restrictions is becoming increasingly clear, with the pub industry warning a quarter of venues could close permanently at the cost of 290,000 jobs and £7billion to the UK if restrictions continue well into next year.
The Middlesbrough lockdown starts on Saturday morning – at one minute past midnight – and will ban people from meeting up indoors with anyone outside their household, including pubs and restaurants.
Lockdowns in Hartlepool, Warrington and the Liverpool City Region, which includes Knowsley, Sefton, St Helens, and Wirral, will come in at the same time as Middlesbrough.
Sarah Best, 28, who owns the Sherlock’s and Dr Watson’s bars in the North Yorkshire town, said she had feared she would have to close her doors in as little as three weeks under the latest rules
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston’s characterisation of the lockdowns as ‘based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication’ was backed by many locals in the town centre yesterday.
Sarah Best, 28, who owns the Sherlock’s and Dr Watson’s bars in the North Yorkshire town, said she had feared she would have to close her doors in as little as three weeks under the latest rules.
She said: ‘When people can only go the pub with members of their own household it’s obviously going to reduce trade even more.
‘The 10pm curfew has been bad enough and it doesn’t work. People gather in the street and can’t get taxis because everyone has to leave at once.
‘We’re just hanging on and if things don’t change I might have to close the doors in three weeks, that’s how bad it is. I really think customers will rebel, especially if the mayor is backing us.
‘We’ll listen to Andy, we get more support and back from the mayor than we do from government. How do you enforce this rule anyway? I’m not going to be asking customers for utility bills.’
Nicola Brogan and Paula Hoare, both 27, said the rules are now ‘so confused that it’s impossible to enforce’ them.
‘It’s crazy that we can’t see relatives who need to see people to stay in touch but you can come down to the pub,’ Ms Hoare said.
‘The mayor is sticking up for the town where there is already massive poverty.’
Ms Brogan added: ‘I worked with the mayor on a charity project and he’s a very well liked and respected guy. I think people will listen to what he thinks more than the government.’
Liam Watson, 24, said: ‘There’s no way people are going to stay at home and not go to the pub when you’ve got the mayor saying ‘defy the ban.’
‘Good for him. He’s sticking up for people and trying to stop businesses going bust and if it comes down to it I’d rather listen to our local leader than some muppet at Westminster. They don’t know anything about us.’
However, Craig Kevin, 47, who works in a fast food stall, said Mr Preston had merely ‘added to the confusion’ with his video statement.
‘Andy Preston has added to the confusion and I think people will just decide to carry on as normal because they don’t actually believe any of them,’ he said.
‘Boris Johnson didn’t even know the rules as they apply to the North East when he was asked the other day so what chance do the public have, especially when national and local Government are saying different things.’
Nathaniel Lawton, 42, was having a drink with friends outside the town’s Swatter’s Carr.
He said: ‘It’s funny to see Andy Preston saying ‘defy the law’ when he was the one who was asking for stricter rules in the first place.
‘He decided Middlesbrough needed restrictions but he hasn’t got the ones he wanted which he should maybe have seen coming.
‘There will always be those who adhere to the rules and those who don’t. No matter what anybody says, whether it’s the government or the mayor, people will decide the law doesn’t apply to them.
‘It’s being spread anyway through offices and schools so I can’t see the restrictions making that much difference.’
The economic cost of local lockdowns is becoming increasingly clear, with the pub industry warning a quarter of venues could close permanently at the cost of 290,000 jobs and £7billion to the UK if restrictions continue well into next year. Pictured is Middlesbrough town centre
Map, above, shows the 45 local lockdowns now in place across the UK, which now cover 16.6m people – a quarter of the country’s population
Revellers were seen enjoyed a boozy final night out yesterday evening 24 hours before the new ban on mixing comes in.
The lockdowns have sparked dire warnings that a quarter of pubs could close for good because of the dramatic loss in custom.
A study commissioned by the British Beer and Pub Association estimated that 11,750 bars will shut with the loss of 290,000 jobs if restrictions imposing reduced capacity drag on well into next year, reported The Times.
Andy Preston, the independent Middlesbrough mayor and philanthropist who clashed with ‘Labour snowflakes’ over immigration and raised £3 million through his charity foundation
Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston has been catapulted into the national coronavirus debate after he launched a stunning revolt against the government’s new lockdown rules in the town.
The independent politician launched his astonishing mutiny after Health Secretary Matt Hancock told MPs the town, along with Liverpool, Hartlepool and Warrington would face the same curbs as the North East.
In a video message Mr Preston said they went further than he and other local politicians had lobbied for, and in what is believed to be a first for a local politician, rejected the measures outlined in the Commons.
Mr Preston was elected mayor in 2019, having first stood and narrowly lost in 2015.
The businessman was previously a high-profile philanthropist in Teesside before going into politics.
The first charity he founded, in 2011, was Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation which raises funds for communities in the area. The Foundation is supported by a number of local businesses including Middlesbrough Football Club.
A few years later, Mr Preston launched a new charity called CEO Sleepout which holds events across the UK to raise funds to combat homelessness and poverty. In December 2016, launched a restaurant, The Fork in the Road, in Middlesbrough in an attempt to provide employment opportunities for former prisoners, recovering addicts and the long term unemployed.
He stepped down from his foundation after being elected, having raised three million during his tenure.
Mr Preston was previously a staunch Labour member before standing as an independent in 2015.
He had a run in with the Labour Party in 2019, when he was accused of ‘dog whistle racism’ after making a post on Facebook titled ‘Immigration Can Bring Big Benefits and Big Negatives’.
Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough, labelled Preston’s post ‘irresponsible and dangerous’.
However, the mayor was heavily supported by the public and an online poll suggested that 89% of residents agreed with his post.
In it, he said that he was ‘100% certain that recent and rapid immigration to some parts of central Middlesbrough is causing new problems and a clash of cultures is developing.’
Dismissing his critics in the Labour party, Mr Preston later said: ‘If professional politicians and some snowflakes aren’t happy with me then that’s fine. I’ll keep sticking up for people – regardless of what abuse politicians and their lackeys send me.’
The calculations, carried out by Oxford Economics, were carried out before the impact of the 10pm curfew and requirement for table service could be estimated so the fall could be even steeper when these factors are included.
Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston announced his revolt against the local lockdown in an angry video posted yesterday, in which he vowed to ‘defy’ the new measures.
The Independent said the measures went further than he and other local politicians had lobbied for, and in what is believed to be a first for a local politician, rejected the measures outlined in the Commons.
Middlesbrough and Hartlepool councils had asked for a ban on households mixing in their own homes. But Mr Hancock announced it would also be illegal for households in those boroughs to mix in a public setting such as a pub.
‘I have to tell you I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance,’ Mr Preston said in a video posted on Twitter.
‘I do not accept the statement at all. I do not accept these measures. We need to talk to government, they need to understand our local knowledge, expertise and ability to get things done, and preserve jobs and well-being.
‘We are really disappointed. As things stand we defy the Government and we do not accept these measures.
‘We need to get Covid under control and we need to work with people to find a way of preserving jobs and mental health.’
As head of the local council Mr Preston has no official powers to over-rule the decision taken by ministers. But he could, in theory, prevent council staff from helping to enforce the pub closures and household meeting ban – though there has been no suggestion yet that he would.
He posted his statement on his Facebook page, with Middlesbrough residents flocking to express their opinion.
Simon Rylander said: ‘Really proud and happy you’re standing up for our town and region Andy! What do we do in the meantime though?’
Craig Hatton wrote: ‘Well done for speaking your mind! This government hasn’t got a grasp on reality.’
Graham Hadfield added: ‘I share your frustration Andy but I fear Hancock will simply continue to close his ears to logic. He has been out of his depth since the start and is just getting worse.’
The confirmation comes despite Mr Hancock hailing ‘early’ indications that the nationwide Rule of Six and 10pm pubs curfew are already bringing cases under control – and downgrading the swingeing measures in place in Bolton.
Meanwhile, there are signs that ministers are scrambling to simplify the rules after even the premier became muddled this week. A ‘traffic light’ system could be introduced to show what restrictions are in place for different regions, with three tiers of intensity.
There are hopes could help free up some parts of the South that have dramatically lower rates of infection than the North.
Results from the largest Covid-19 study in England found the R-rate fell from 1.7 to around 1.1 last month.
But the director of the study, by Imperial College London and Ipsos Mori, said the interim findings from 80,000 participants ‘reinforced the need for protective measures’ to help extinguish the virus.
Mr Hancock told the Commons: ‘The study published today shows us hope that we can crack this.’
However, he again defied calls for the 10pm curfew on pubs to be lifted amid claims it is doing ‘more harm than good’. Mr Hancock’s positive message on the findings of the study contrasted sharply with the grim message from Boris Johnson, Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance at a Downing Street press conference last night.
The PM and his senior medical and science advisers warned that the outbreak was ‘going in the wrong direction’ – even though it is understood they were aware of the latest Imperial findings in advance.
Yesterday’s update of the rolling seven-day rate of new cases of Covid-19 for every local authority area in England put Burnley at the top of the list.
Burnley had the highest rate in England, with 279 new cases recorded in the seven days to September 26, the equivalent of 313.8 cases per 100,000 people.
This is up sharply from 164.2 in the seven days to September 19, while Knowsley has the second highest rate, up from 177.6 to 283.0 with 427 new cases.
People living in these areas have also been told not to meet other households and they are allowed essential travel only.
Similar rules have been imposed in locations including Rossendale, Hyndburn, South Ribble, West Lancashire, Chorley, Wyre, Fylde, Lancaster, Ribble Valley, Wirral, St Helens, Sefton, Halton and Warrington since September 22.
HOW HAS THE CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK CHANGED?
The REACT study, run by Imperial College London and funded by the Department of Health, has been tracking England’s Covid-19 outbreak throughout the summer.
The prevalence of the virus is based on what proportion of people tested have a positive result, and is used to work out what percentage of people in the country currently have the virus.
This is how the data shows the change in England’s outbreak:
Round three: July 24 – August 11
- Prevalence: 0.04% (one in 2,500)
- Estimated R rate: 1.3
- Tests done: 161,560
- Positive results: 54
Round four: August 20 – September 8
- Prevalence: 0.13% (one in 769)
- Estimated R rate: 1.7
- Tests done: 154,325
- Positive results: 137
Round five: September 18 – 25
- Prevalence: 0.55% (one in 181)
- Estimated R rate: 1.06
- Tests done: 84,610 (ongoing)
- Positive results: 363
The most recent round of results from REACT provides estimates for the prevalence of the virus in different regions across England as follows:
- North West: 0.86% (1 in 116 people)
- North East: 0.78% (1 in 128)
- Yorkshire & Humber: 0.54% (1 in 185)
- London: 0.49% (1 in 204)
- East Midlands: 0.44% (1 in 227)
- West Midlands: 0.38% (1 in 263)
- East of England: 0.31% (1 in 323)
- South West: 0.25% (1 in 400)
- South East: 0.24% (1 in 417)
Anyone living in areas including Bury, Manchester, Rochdale, Salford, Tameside, Trafford, Blackpool, Stockport and Wigan must also not mix with people outside of their household.
They have also been told to avoid socialising with other households in public venues.
Stricter measures that had been in place for Bolton are due to be eased in line with the rest of Greater Manchester, allowing for hospitality venues to open under the same conditions as the rest of the region, such as table service and a 10pm curfew.
Liverpool had been braced for more measures to curb a recent rise in infections that has left it with the highest rolling seven-day rate of new cases at 258 per 100,000, while nearby Knowsley is second at 262.
In addition, Luton, Wakefield, Chester, East and West Cheshire, Barrow-in-Furness and Rotherham have been added to the Government’s watchlist as ‘areas of concern’.
And Sheffield has been moved up to an area of ‘enhanced support’, suggesting it could be the next to be placed in lockdown.
Areas of concern are the focus of targeted actions to reduce the prevalence of coronavirus, for example receiving additional testing in care homes and increased community engagement with high-risk groups.
Areas for enhanced support are those at a medium-high risk of intervention where there is a more detailed plan, agreed with the national authorities.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called for a ‘rapid review’ of the local lockdown strategy and urged the Government to consider whether the 10pm curfew should remain.
‘We have supported these restrictions, but we have now got – after this morning’s announcement – over 50 areas in local restrictions and over the weeks and months only one area has come out of these restrictions,’ he said.
‘So we need a strategy, a road map, people need to have hope that this is going to work.’
He told reporters at Westminster that the Government needed to ‘massively improve’ the way it communicated and provide economic support for areas at the same time restrictions were imposed.
‘I think we need a rapid review of the local lockdowns because what we are seeing is that in some areas in lockdown the infection rates are going up, not down.
‘That’s worrying and there needs to be a review into that. In other areas they have been in local lockdown for months and so there needs to be a rapid review – what’s working, what isn’t working, what does the science tell us about that.’
Speaking in the Commons, Mr Hancock was repeatedly challenged over the blanket 10pm curfew on pubs and restaurants in England.
There were complaints that people have been causing issues by piling out of venues and going to the supermarket for more alcohol, or having house parties instead.
But Mr Hancock said: ‘Of course, we keep this under review and of course we’re constantly looking at how we can improve these policies, but I think we’ve got to look at both sides of the evidence to try to get this right.’
He added: ‘We know that sustained contact, especially in crowded, poorly ventilated spaces is a driver of infection and pubs and bars an obvious risk.
‘So I heard what he said about the 10pm rule, but my concerns relate to everybody leaving the pub at the same time.’