Mayor calls for 'confusing' lockdown rules to be simplified in region

Monday, September 28th, 2020 12:30pm

By Niall Griffiths, Local Democracy Reporter @niallgriffiths

Local lockdown restrictions across Greater Manchester need to be simplified as they are too complex and 'confusing', mayor Andy Burnham has said.

National rules do not apply in the same way in the region – and some local lockdown restrictions make things incredibly confusing.

By law, people are not allowed to have anyone from outside their household in their home or garden – unless they’re in a support bubble – in Manchester, Stockport, Trafford, Bury, Tameside, Rochdale, Salford, Wigan, Oldham and Bolton.

The government advises against socialising with anyone outside people’s household or bubble at ‘any public venue’ –  inside or outside.

That advice covers the whole of Greater Manchester, according to the letter of government guidelines.

If people go against that advice, the national ‘rule of six’ – as covered by law – comes into play.

It’s not always been clear which restrictions are covered by law and which are guidance – or which areas the rules apply to.

In Bolton, which has one of the highest infection rates in the UK, there are extra lockdown rules.

Pubs and restaurants have been forced to close completely unless they can operate takeaway services across the borough.

Casinos, skating rinks, bowling alleys, play areas and conference centres have also had to shut in Bolton.

There has been added confusion with some boroughs – Wigan and Stockport – being taken out of local lockdown, before being put back in.

Mr Burnham said the public are becoming increasingly frustrated by the inconsistencies in Greater Manchester, and has urged the government to rethink its approach.

He has suggested that a new tier system which simplifies and clarifies what is illegal in each borough could encourage more people to follow the rules.

“I don’t envy the government as it tries to find a way through a very difficult situation,” said Mr Burnham.

“But we have arrived at a position where people living in areas under local restrictions are understandably confused about the rules. 

“They are too complex and there has been too much chopping and changing.

“We urgently need to simplify and clarify them to build greater public understanding and buy-in ahead of the winter.”

If the government were to agree to such proposals then council leaders and Greater Manchester need to be involved in the tier system’s design, Mr Burnham added.

More support should also be given to businesses in the city-region hit hardest by the restrictions, which have been in place for eight weeks.

Last week Mr Burnham said it was ‘immoral’ of the government to shut the struggling businesses down without providing greater financial support.

Speaking today, he added: “The current payments are extremely low and not enough to save businesses from closure. 

“If the north faces a winter of restrictions without support, it is clear that our economy will be levelled down not levelled up.”

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