Lincolnshire’s council leaders said they are disappointed that the county remained under the toughest coronavirus tier 3 restrictions on Thursday.
Health secretary Matt Hancock said the vast majority of areas, including the Greater Lincolnshire region, would remain in tier three along with neighbours to the west Nottingham and Nottinghamshire.
However, he also added that the county’s southern neighbours of Peterborough (Cambridgeshire) would be placed into tier 3.
Questioned by Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh on why some parts of Lincolnshire could not be separated from others, Mr Hancock said: “We did look very closely at the southern end of Lincolnshire, which is a long way from where the rates are incredibly elevated around Lincoln, the coast and West Lindsey.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t possible to bring any of the lower tier authorities in Lincolnshire out of tier 3 and, over the border in Peterborough, we have seen a very sharp increase.
“So we’re not there yet, but I hope we can make significant progress.”
“We can’t ignore the health of our communities”
Leader of Lincolnshire County Council Martin Hill said the authority can “accept and understand” the decision, but that it was”hugely disappointing” for the economy.
“This is not going to help the shops and businesses who could be benefitting from the festive period when people are spending their money,” he said.
“It’s disappointing that not all businesses are able to trade and prosper during what is one of our busiest periods in the run up to Christmas, when they could recapture some of the lost revenue due to lockdown and opening restrictions during most of this year.”
He said he would work with MPs and district leaders to get “suitable compensation” for local businesses.
“But we can’t ignore the health of our communities and the pressures on our hospitals,” he said.
“If our situation continues to improve we’ll be pressing government to look at this again in the new year”
“It’s not Hotel California for everybody”
South Holland District Council leader Lord Gary Porter was forced to concede to the tier 3 restrictions following the news about neigbouring Peterborough.
He, along with MP John Hayes, had argued that their district and others in the south of the county could be considered separately due to their low numbers, however infection rates have spiked recently.
“Clearly the numbers are going up and that’s a worrying factor,” he said.
“If numbers are as high as they say, then staying in tier 3 was unavoidable.
“Take into account Peterborough now going into tier 3, and that undermines my case.”
He said the next move was to persuade government to splash more cash on the struggling businesses.
“I’m sorry for the businesses that are going to take a right kicking for this. They’re going to be out of business through no fault of their own,” he added.
However, he also said that with numbers rising, “It needs to be questioned how effective the tiering system is? What work are the government doing to look closely at tiering.”
Lord Porter argued that measures needed to be proportionate. He added schools needed to close, arguing that the disparity in education between those in bubbles who are forced to isolate and those in the classroom was growing.
However, he said: “It’s good that we have let a couple of places out, it’s not Hotel California for everybody. It’s just a shame they’re not round here.”
“South Kesteven should be proud of its role”
Leader of South Kesteven District Council Councillor Kelham Cooke, expressed sympathy with the hospitality industry “at what would normally be their busiest time of the year” and vowed to continue to provide support..
He called on residents to continue our efforts to bring the numbers figure down.
“Although the Tier 3 restrictions will be relaxed over the Christmas period, from December 23-27, we should heed the advice to be cautious and think hard about plans we may have for family gatherings.
“No-one wants to see another rise in cases after the 27th. By following the guidance now, to keep our loved ones safe, I am hopeful that rates will have reduced by the next review in 14 days’ time.
This week saw the opening of a vaccination centre at the Meres Leisure Centre, Grantham, and a drive-through mobile testing station at St Martin’s Park, Stamford.
Councillor Cooke said: “We should be proud that South Kesteven is playing an important role in the nationwide effort to roll-out vaccinations and increase testing.
“Being able to get a test quickly is critical to the success of the national test and trace service and residents in both the north and south of the district now have vital facilities close to home.”
“Clear path to recovery needed”
North Kesteven District Council leader Councillor Richard Wright hoped people would understand the latest move.
“The government is under significant pressure in trying to balance the effective control of the virus with the ability for the economy and functions of life to continue as effectively and safely as possible,” he said.
“It is for this reason that we have the tiering system in place, and in recognition of the ongoing reality within Lincolnshire, I encourage everyone to comply fully with the current restrictions and to exercise care and caution to keep themselves and others around them protected.”
He said the statistics spoke for themselves and that while he was conscious of the need to support businesses, he worried that “premature opening of hospitality before the virus is more under control isn’t necessarily the best way to effect that.
“It could just lead to even more damaging returns to full lockdowns,” he said.
“We need a clear path to recovery; not stop, starting every few weeks. Grants are available for affected businesses and we encourage application.”
He echoed the warnings of the Prime Minister to be cautions over Christmas and urged people to be “careful and cautious”.
“The three households are a maximum, not a target, and a smaller, shortest Christmas will undoubtedly be a safer Christmas for everyone.
“With that thought, I wish you a safe, healthy and peaceful Christmas and urge your ongoing care and caution into the New Year.”