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'We won't be dictated to' council leader to seek legal advice if town is 'lumped in' with north of the region.

Byline: IAN MCNEAL; STUART ARNOLD news@gazettemedia.co.uk @TeessideLive

A COUNCIL leader has threatened to seek legal advice if greater lockdown restrictions are imposed on Teesside without consultation.

New measures aimed at curbing coronavirus for all of Teesside, Hartlepool and Darlington were brought in yesterday as part of the introduction of national three-tiered system.

Tees Valley has been placed in Tier 2, which means households are banned from mixing indoors, either in homes or pubs.

Only Liverpool is currently at Tier 3, which has seen the closure of pubs and gyms, while discussions with leaders in Greater Manchester yesterday became embroiled in a further political row over Labour leader Keir Starmer's call for a two-week 'circuit breaker' lockdown.

Now, it is understood the Government is considering moving other areas to the top 'very high' level, with the Prime Minister's spokesperson confirming they are looking at areas in the North East and Yorkshire.

It is unclear whether the Tees Valley forms part of the top level discussions about the North East or whether it is being considered as a separate case.

Hartlepool Council leader Shane Moore hit out yesterday, saying he would strongly oppose any attempt to "lump in" Hartlepool and Teesside with the north of the region.

In a tweet he said: "Lumping Hartlepool and the Tees Valley in with the rest of the North East may be convenient for those out of touch in London but we will not stand by and be dictated to.

"We will seek legal advice if this action is taken without local consent." Teesside council leaders and Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen are to hold talks with Government officials tomorrow to discuss the impact of the restrictions.

Mr Houchen also warned Teesside faces stricter restrictions unless people stick to the latest rules.

Council leaders will have the opportunity to push the case for further support for struggling businesses at tomorrow's meeting.

The virtual meeting has been coordinated by Mr Houchen.

There has been criticism over a lack of support for businesses in areas placed in the 'high' or Tier 2 category of measures. Under the rules they aren't legally required to close, but due to restrictions on households mixing cash flows have been hit and many businesses, particularly those in the hospitality sector, are facing a bleak winter.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has pledged cash grants for firms who are required to close under Tier 3 or 'very high' category of restrictions, while employees who can't work because their employer is forced to close will have two thirds of their salary covered.

Mr Houchen, who is self-isolating at home after his wife fell ill with coronavirus, previously said more support for firms affected by Tier 2 restrictions was "essential".

Councils on Teesside have already requested millions of pounds worth of additional funding from the Government in order to pay for measures to prevent the spread of the virus and support elderly and vulnerable residents in particular.

Redcar and Cleveland Council leader Mary Lanigan said its request for PS6.8m was also necessary to "support businesses through the toughest of circumstances and ensure they remain solvent".

Middlesbrough and Stockton councils - Stockton leader Bob Cook confirmed he had received the meeting invitation - have made similar requests amounting to PS7.4m and PS7.7m respectively.

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Mr Houchen said: "As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, with new restrictions, it is absolutely right that leaders from across the political spectrum come together and fight for the best deal for the hard-working people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool."

He added: "While I am sure the discussion will be wide-ranging and constructive, we will all make clear that none of us want to spend a day longer than is absolutely necessary under these new restrictions."

Amid talk of a 'circuit breaker' would see the country placed back into a full lockdown, Mr Houchen also sounded a warning over potentially tougher measures to come.

He said: "Everyone across the region has sacrificed too much to go back into a full lockdown, but if we do not follow these rules, our region and our nation will face even stricter restrictions that no one wants to see - restrictions that will have a catastrophic impact on our economy, our livelihoods as well as our physical and mental health."

CAPTION(S):

Middlesbrough town centre this week. Below, Hartlepool Council leader Shane Moore
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Author:IAN MCNEAL; STUART ARNOLD news@gazettemedia.co.uk @TeessideLive
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 15, 2020
Words:739
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