Increasingly, it feels like the north is being treated as an afterthought, with decisions taken by people in Whitehall who could not even point to Warrington on a map. We had absolutely none of the promised engagement over the weekend with our local authority and there was a concerted push to make us subject to the tier 3 restrictions of the Liverpool city region, despite not being a part of those conversations or, indeed, of the Liverpool city region. It has been insulting to be invited to a meeting for a totally different county by the Department for Health, and to be told what restrictions we would be subject to only minutes before the Prime Minister made his announcement, when the details had all been leaked to The Times days earlier, causing huge anxiety locally.
The real irony, however, is that many of our local businesses would be better off if we had gone into tier 3, as the financial support for tier 2 is totally inadequate. Between the 10 pm curfew and the introduction of the ban on households mixing indoors, hospitality venues in Warrington lost up to 90% of their business in a single week. No business could be expected to survive that indefinitely and the job support scheme does little to help, pushing families into poverty. Far from the Government’s stated aspiration of levelling up, we are being levelled down in the north-west by coronavirus and a Government who seem to think we should be grateful for the limited support we have had.
The worst part is hearing from constituents who have lost hope. The mental health impacts of all they have had to endure will be lasting and significant. As well as getting serious about financial support for our region to deal with the virus, we urgently need to see increased support to deal with the mental health crisis that we face. To give people hope, we need to have it explained what thresholds Warrington needs to meet to be moved out of tier 2 and into tier 1, with the rest of the country. With something to work towards, compliance will naturally increase, and it will give us back some of the control that we feel we have lost. We all want to do our bit, but the Government must do theirs. That means greater engagement, transparency and accountability and not a lockdown for the north on the cheap.