The elected mayor of Middlesbrough said he was prepared to defy the Government and reject new coronavirus measures imposed on the town in what was thought to be a first for an authority figure.
Independent Andy Preston was furious with the new rules which go further than he and his counterparts in Hartlepool had lobbied for earlier in the week.
Middlesbrough and Hartlepool councils had asked for a ban on households mixing in their own homes.
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock went further and announced it would be illegal for households in those boroughs to mix in a public setting such as a pub – as was the case elsewhere in the North East.
Govt Restrictions Are Unacceptable
We tried to communicate with govt but they didn’t listen
They’re imposing restrictions that’ll kill viable jobs & damage mental health
I do not accept the government’s intended restrictions – they’re based on ignorance
Updates to follow pic.twitter.com/ZqtE1ES8gm
— Andy Preston Mayor (@Tees_Issues) October 1, 2020
In a video statement, Mr Preston said: “I have to tell you I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication, and ignorance.
“I do not accept the statement at all.
“I do not accept these measures.
“We need to talk to government, they need to understand our local knowledge, expertise and ability to get things done, and preserve jobs and well-being.
“We are really disappointed.
“As things stand we defy the Government and we do not accept these measures.
“We need to get Covid under control and we need to work with people to find a way of preserving jobs and mental health.”
Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, had been opposed to extra measures but said it was now time to comply with them.
He said: “There is now nothing constructive to be done other than to urge people to respect the law so we can leave these restrictions as quickly as possible.
“We are making the measures consistent across the NE (North East) and that is helpful for clarity.
“Now we are in these restrictions it is now of the utmost importance that we all get behind them and make sure they work for the common good.”
Andy McDonald, Labour MP for Middlesbrough, said the new measures were “inevitable”.
He said: “I’ve said before that no one welcomes further restrictions, but we on Teesside sit next to seven neighbouring North East local authorities where tighter restrictions have been imposed for some time now because of worryingly high rates of Covid-19.
“It’s only 13 miles from Middlesbrough to Sedgefield in County Durham and the virus is clearly in circulation right across the North East region at levels that are concerning and the virus pays no heed to the local authority borders between County Durham and the Tees Valley local authority areas.”
After announcing the measures, which come into force from midnight on Saturday, Mr Hancock said: “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.”