Lockdown will destroy jobs and damage mental health, warns Middlesbrough Mayor

Danielle Sheridan
Andy Preston said: 'We've had no documentation, no email, no phone call' - NNP
Andy Preston said: 'We've had no documentation, no email, no phone call' - NNP
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

The Mayor of a town subject to lockdown restrictions yesterday said he would defy the Government as he warned the measures will “damage mental health and destroy jobs”.

Andy Preston, the Mayor of Middlesbrough, rejected the stricter lockdown measures set out by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, on Thursday and said Government had created a "flawed" plan.

However Mr Preston was accused by the Government of risking lives with his “totally irresponsible” comments.

He spoke out after Mr Hancock announced that his town, along with the Liverpool City Region, Warrington and Hartlepool, would be subject to fines if different households mixed in a  private home, private garden or indoor venue. 

The new laws, which come into force from midnight tonight, come days after households in the North-East were banned from mixing in all social settings.

The Mayor told The Telegraph he still hoped to convince the Government to drop the plan before it comes into force.

 He said: "As things stand this is a proposal, an idea that's been floated in a speech. We've had no documentation, no email, no phone call. 

"The words as orated suggest it's going to be a Tyne and Wear-style lockdown and we are basically saying: 'No, this is wrong, you've made a mistake. Listen to us, talk to us, adapt your plan and we'll help you implement it.'"

Earlier in the day, he had said: "We're really disappointed. As things stand, we defy the Government and do not accept these measures."

The video below shows Newcastle residents reacting to the Tyne and Wear measures: 

A senior Government source said Mr Preston "cannot change the law and it is totally irresponsible for him to have said what he did".

"He called for extra measures on Tuesday, he wrote to the Government saying there was unanimous support for them, so it's extraordinary for him to come out now and say that he doesn't support the new measures," the source said.

"He is totally lacking in credibility. Lives depend on this. It really matters."

Mr Hancock told the Commons: "Our strategy is to suppress the virus, protecting the economy, education and the NHS, until a vaccine can make us safe. I understand how much of an imposition these new measures are. I want rules like this to stay in place for as short a time as possible. I am sure we all do."

However, Mr Preston claimed the Government had "not engaged with us on any level at any point". 

"They seem to be doing something to us without regard for our local expertise," he said. "As things stand, there is a speech that everyone is latching onto and none of us know what it means, but people are suggesting to us it means a Tyne and Wear lockdown which is for, Middlesbrough, unnecessary."

He said local authorities were willing to work with the Government to "deliver a better, more intelligent, more compassionate, more pragmatic plan" or risk the people of the North-East suffering from "isolation, desperation and depression", warning that the measures would "literally get rid of thousands of jobs" and "push people with poor mental health over the edge". 

On Thursday night the people of Middlesbrough also seemed set to defy the new laws. Liam Watson, 24, said: "There's no way people are going to stay at home and not go to the pub when you've got the Mayor saying 'defy the ban'.

"He's sticking up for people and trying to stop businesses going bust and, if it comes down to it, I'd rather listen to our local leader than some muppet at Westminster. They don't know anything about us."

But Craig Kevin, a 47-year-old food market trader who runs a stall in the town centre, accused the Mayor of "adding to the confusion" over the rules, saying "people will just decide to carry on as normal because they don't actually believe any of them".

"Boris Johnson didn't even know the rules as they apply to the North-East when he was asked the other day, so what chance do the public have, especially when national and local Government are saying different things?" he asked.

Has lockdown affected your mental health? Tell us in the comments below