Phones ringing off the hook, councillors scrambling for details and anxious families worrying about how their jobs and children will be affected – these are the scenes local leaders have described in the wake of strict local lockdown restrictions being announced by the government.
A series of Labour councillors and politicians have told HuffPost UK how, by unveiling sweeping new restrictions late at night on social media, without details of the rules and without giving councils times to prepare, the government is undermining public confidence and sparking widespread anxiety.
“They need to think more about the real world – real families in their homes hearing that kind of announcement,” Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham told HuffPost UK.
“I don’t think they think enough about those things.”
In Newcastle – where a sharp uptick in Covid-19 infections has seen the coronavirus rate reach 108 cases per 100,000 people in recent days – local leaders asked the government for a series of additional restrictions to help curb the spread of the potentially deadly virus.
But when health secretary Matt Hancock announced in the Commons on Thursday that large swathes of the north-east would be under new, stricter coronavirus directives, local politicians – including Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes – were in the dark about the exact regulations.
Yes, there would be a 10pm curfew for bars and restaurants and a ban on people socialising outside of their households – but what did the announcement mean for public transport? For weddings? For organised sports?
“The secretary of state made an announcement in the Commons at 11.30am, but we didn’t actually get the final version of the regulations until 6pm,” Forbes said.
“So we had maybe seven hours of people speculating wildly about what was going to be announced and we didn’t know because we hadn’t seen the final list of restrictions.”
The council knew what it had asked...