Prominent Burnley businessman slams 'ridiculous' second national lockdown

A leading Burnley businessman has slammed plans for a second national lockdown saying it will only inflict more unnecessary damage on society.
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Crow Wood managing director Andrew Brown said the country would look back on these latest Covid measures as a "total disaster" as he implored Government ministers to start dealing in economic reality.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday that England would enter a second lockdown today, due to last four weeks.

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Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham said the decision to lock down went against all his values, but believed there was no other alternative given the evidence.

Crow Wood in Burnley; inset, managing director Andrew Brown. Photo: Andy FordCrow Wood in Burnley; inset, managing director Andrew Brown. Photo: Andy Ford
Crow Wood in Burnley; inset, managing director Andrew Brown. Photo: Andy Ford

However, a furious Mr Brown said it seemed there was no real plan in place, and accused the Government of clutching at straws.

"I appreciate the decisions are hard but it is a complete fantasy to believe we are currently saving any lives; on the contrary, I think we are actually killing more people," he said.

"The Government has constantly shifted position and never given any measures time to take effect. Recently we went to regional lockdowns which whilst unwelcome for business seemed a justifiable response.

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"Burnley has been under restrictions since March, currently there is no hope that December will bring any sort of relief as the last lockdown lasted months.

"The Government clearly has no plan to break this cycle and is simply clutching at straws.

"Boris has said we must respect nature, but we are attempting to defy it, like King Canute. Life expectancy in the U.K. is 81.2 years, the average mortality through Covid is 82.4 years, surely this is a battle that we simply cannot win.

"I do not deny the enormous grief of families losing loved ones, particularly when they cannot be with them or even hold a decent funeral. I also acknowledge the efforts of the NHS staff in going above and beyond, many losing their lives to save others.

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"But in all of this there has to be a balance.Some will say that saving lives must have a greater priority than any economic factors, but on the present trajectory we are simply not saving any lives at all, we are simply moving the deckchairs on the Titanic."

Mr Brown went on to blast the £12b. spent on 'Test and Trace' branding the app "useless" while bemoaning a lack of leadership and effective management.

"No commercial organisation would put up with this," he said. "Economically the High Street is now finished; a disaster of huge proportions which will ruin many family businesses who will be simply financially wiped out.

"The local lockdowns were achieving results, a national lockdown will simply inflict more unnecessary damage to the well being of our whole society.

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"Our business has complied with all the rules to be Covid-secure, the evidence shows that we are not the source of most infections and yet we are shut down.

"During the last lockdown approximately 30% of the workforce was furloughed. Meaning 70% of people carried on as normal with little economic damage and this is just the working population.

"When you add in the retired, unemployed, those in education the % of the population receiving this hammer blow is not only small, but it is the same people being hit on the head every time.

"We employ 290 people, our grant when closed is £3,000 per month, our fixed costs excluding rates and salaries is £200,000 a month, how are we supposed to survive?

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"With infection rates falling in many areas under local Tier 3 restrictions, why are we now locking down the whole country?

"The Government must broaden its decision making group to include some with opposing views and some economic reality must be added in.

"Two weeks ago Manchester was told the old furlough would not be brought back under any circumstances; surprise, surprise when the south of England was added to lockdown it was immediately restored. This is monumental incompetence and implies that the north of England is less important than the south.

"The World Health Organisation says national lockdowns do not work, Sweden would obviously echo that.

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"Boris has shown poor leadership and bad management, we will look back on this as a total disaster and ridiculous decision."

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham said: "This is not a decision I, or the Prime Minister, wanted to make. It goes against all my values. But, sadly, having spoken to the local NHS, medical advisers and Government Ministers it is clear that the situation is incredibly worrying.

"Our local hospitals are now busier than the first peak and could easily be overwhelmed if we don't take action. That would mean patients who can be treated, for Covid and non-Covid alike, can't be, because there are no beds.

"On that balance of evidence there was little room. I know that not everyone will agree with this decision, but I honestly do not see what else can be done with the evidence provided. It’s certainly not a decision I came to lightly and is perhaps the hardest one I’ve faced.

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"I know this will be a really tough period for businesses, and I am working with the Chancellor to ensure we get the support we need to our local businesses.

"Burnley has got through this before and we will do so again. This should provide the necessary opportunity for us to rapidly bring down our infection rate so we can leave these restrictions and use the new rapid-tests now being rolled-out with more advanced contract tracing to adapt in a sustainable way, in the absence of a vaccine."