THE LEADER of a council impacted by the Government's "insensitive" late-night announcement of new restrictions for areas in the North of England is baffled by the decision to include his district in the mix.

Councillor Shabir Pandor, Leader of Kirklees Council, is seeking urgent answers from the Government and feels his district has "been singled without any reasonable or solid evidence base".

Last night, the Government announced that households in Bradford, Kirklees, Calderdale, Greater Manchester and parts of Lancashire would be banned from meeting each other indoors from 12am today.

It later emerged that the restrictions also prevent two households meeting in private gardens (except where you have formed a support bubble).

But those who live together can visit indoor venues such as pubs and restaurants.

The timing of the decision, the nuances of what it means, and even the locations impacted, has left many confused - none more so than Cllr Pandor.

While Bradford has risen to fourth in the country for its high number of coronavirus cases and rate of infection this week, Cllr Pandor claims the infection rate figures have been coming down over the last few weeks in Kirklees.

He said: “There are many questions to be answered by Government about their announcement last night.

"The timing of it, the confusion it has caused and the logic behind it all remain unclear.

“I am seeking answers to those questions as a matter of the utmost urgency but my message to residents right now is to please follow this guidance, as I know you will.

“However, I cannot pretend to ignore the feelings thousands of residents in Kirklees will have towards this decision.

"From the families with children who were looking forward to sharing time in Eid with their loved ones, to those who were looking forward to getting together over a warm weekend with friends and family.

“The timing of this was insensitive, but I also cannot see a clear rationale for this decision now, as our infection rate figures have been coming down over the last few weeks.

"It feels as though Kirklees has been singled without any reasonable or solid evidence base and many have told me we are being treated totally unfairly.

“We deserve answers and I will hold Government to account on this, because people across Kirklees have made many sacrifices in the past few months and we are now being asked to make more."

The Leader of Kirklees Council has urged people to follow the guidance, if that is what is needed.

He said: "But if that’s what it takes to save lives, I know that local people will once again step up and do the right thing for their families, friends, their neighbours and community."

The Government's announcement came as Eid al-Adha celebrations were about to get underway.

It is a religious festival where family, community and giving to others is paramount.

But now, many in Kirklees will not be able to celebrate with their loved ones in the way they anticipated.

Cllr Pandor says this will be a shock for the people of his district and he feels their frustration.

He added: “For many people in our community, Eid al-Adha celebrations have now begun.

"As we expected, Eid will be very different.

"But it now means people will not be able to visit each other’s homes as part of those celebrations.

"This will be a shock to many people who have been preparing to celebrate safely and I understand how hard this will be for you and how frustrated you will feel.

"I am frustrated for everyone in Kirklees who will be affected by this.

"Our greatest strength in Kirklees is our unity and we will need to draw on that togetherness to get through this quickly and safely."

Cllr Pandor is confident though that people in Kirklees will get their "freedoms back quickly", if they stick together and continue to help the rate of infection drop further in the district.

He said: “I will be talking with Government about how we can make sure these restrictions are temporary and if we continue to see a fall in cases here, I will be arguing strongly for them to be lifted as soon as possible.

“As soon as the Government started to release local data on infections, we took quick and decisive action to get rates down.

"In fact, over the past week, we’ve seen a significant fall in the rate of infection.

"It means Kirklees is in a very different position to many of the other authorities named last night and it’s a credit to our incredible residents.

"If this week’s reduction continues, I’m confident we can get our freedoms back quickly.

“Our biggest strength is our togetherness and we will come through this even stronger. I will continue to update everyone as we know more.”