Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham column: Restrictions in Burnley require a more targeted approach

Last week the Government announced that a more targeted approach to localised interventions was to be implemented, ensuring that only those specific areas with high Covid-19 prevalence rates in an area are to be subject to additional interventions – following the data as the Government has always said it would.

The announcement also made clear that Members of Parliament are to have a greater role in where interventions are to take place.

I have lobbied intensively for both things, believing that the greater level of data available to us should allow for more targeted interventions, and also giving local people a voice through their MP.

Tomorrow, we will receive an update on whether and where additional restrictions in Burnley will continue to be in place.

Burnley MP Antony Higginbotham

It’s clear from the data that is available to me that we can follow a more local approach here in Burnley, bringing some of our areas out of the additional restrictions and allowing us to provide more targeted help and support to those that can’t be brought out at this stage.

Unfortunately, however, this is not a view shared by all. Local council leadership remains of the view that a borough-wide approach must be maintained with no change to the level of restrictions currently in place that limits families seeing each other.

Whilst I will continue to work with the council leader and local director of Public Health to reach a consensus, families across Burnley and Padiham have made incredible sacrifices as a result of the pandemic and I believe it is incumbent on those of us in elected positions to allow them to meet one another, returning to the same position as the rest of the country as early as possible.

A consensus approach would have allowed a single plan to be presented to Government which has the backing of local public health officials, the council and myself, significantly strengthening the case for an easing of restrictions in some areas.

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As that has not been possible I have instead submitted my own proposal which would allow those areas with the lowest prevalence of Covid-19 to come out of the additional restrictions immediately; and providing a clear route forward for those areas that aren’t yet able to do so.

It is possible that the lack of consensus locally means the Secretary of State and Chief Medical Officer are unable to agree to an easing of restrictions in some areas of Burnley.

And while this would be incredibly disappointing for me and people across the borough, I have agreed to continue to work intensively with the local director of Public Health on creating an exit plan from the restrictions.

I also recognise that there are many businesses which are still unable to open, including those which would be able to operate if they were elsewhere in the country.

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From soft-play centres and bowling alleys to beauticians providing facial treatments.

I have been also lobbied the Government to ease those restrictions across all of Burnley and Padiham immediately, bringing business restrictions into line with the rest of the country.

Those businesses have gone an enormous length of time without any income and cannot wait much longer.

I have always said we must follow both the science and the data. It was an examination of that data which led me to the conclusion that it was, and remains, possible for some areas in Burnley to exit restrictions early.

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As your representative I will continue to make that case both locally and nationally.

Whatever the outcome of the decision, I would urge everyone to keep following the rules.

That is how we will continue to make progress and gives us the best chance of making the case for an easing of restrictions both now and in the future.