Flurry of meetings over Lancashire Tier 3 status as decision looms

Talks between Lancashire leaders and the government over whether the county should enter Tier 3 Covid restrictions continued late into last night - and have resumed first thing this morning.
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It is understood that the leaders themselves also met shortly after 7am and that what is thought to be a final request from the county for a package of financial support is now being considered by ministers.

Separately, Lancashire County Council leader Geoff Driver has told Radio Lancashire that the county is on the verge of securing “a really good deal” – one which he hopes isn’t “scuppered because of some unrealistic late demands from some of my colleagues [other Lancashire leaders].

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“I hope playing politics doesn’t scupper it at the last minute, because the people who would suffer are the people of Lancashire.

Is a decision imminent?Is a decision imminent?
Is a decision imminent?

“In two weeks’ time, if we don’t do something about it, the hospitals in Lancashire are going to be over-run – and we shouldn’t be allowing petty party politics to put the people at Lancashire at risk.

“[Some leaders] seem to be asking for more and more to get the government to say we can’t agree to that.

“The deal that’s on the table now is a much better deal than was on the table 24 hours ago,” County Cllr Driver said.

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Lancashire was placed in Tier 2 earlier this week, but the government is known to be keen for the county to become a Tier 3 area – which would result in the closure of its non-food pubs and bars and potentially a range of other non-essential services like gyms. Household mixing in all indoor and most outdoor areas would also be outlawed, except for support bubbles.

£50m of business support is being sought by the county - money left over from business grants issued to Lancashire’s councils during the national lockdown earlier this year. Conditions relating to how it could be used meant significant sums went unspent – and the Treasury is now poised to claw it back.

Lancashire instead wants to be given control over the cash so that it can fund discretionary payments to firms directly or indirectly affected by a tougher lockdown this winter.

The county has argued that promised government payments of up to £3,000 per month for businesses forced to close - and two thirds of pay for their employees - are insufficient. Leaders also want support to be made available to other companies hit by the fallout from the closure of some sectors of the economy.

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Lancashire is seeking a further £5.2m per month during any Tier 3 lockdown for the care and education sectors and flat payments of £2m for enforcement of the regulations and £1m for a public information campaign and “behavioural insight” work into compliance with the restrictions.