THE DEBATE over how the Government should lift restrictions in Bradford and Kirklees has intensified following suggestions that rules could be assessed on a ward-by-ward basis.

Last week, Mr Hancock announced a more targeted approach to restrictions, with the views of MPs sought to gain “the maximum possible local consensus”.

He added this would allow local councils to focus resources on the wards which need more targeted intervention in order to drive infection rates down.

However leaders of West Yorkshire Councils that are under stricter lockdown measures have called for these areas to be brought in line with the rest of the UK – and the Government to instead invest in local measures to stop Covid 19 spreading.

Bradford Council Leader Susan Hinchcliffe and Calderdale Leader Councillor Tim Swift released a statement asking the Government to fund its local test and trace system, which would cost around £2 million a year in Bradford, provide more home testing kits and provide financial support for people on zero hours contracts.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Bradford Council's full statement

The statement reads: “Our infection rates have come down significantly this week although they are still high.

“Over the last few months and weeks we, as Leaders, have taken difficult decisions and directed significant resource in our councils to make this happen. However throughout this time Government messaging has been confused and bungled.

Read more: THURSDAY'S Bradford area by area breakdown of Covid-19 cases

“The latest shift in Government messaging that happened last week was that they inferred they wanted to see more localised restrictions, varying them ward by ward rather than by local authority areas.

“To add to the confusion Government want to review and change these place by place weekly leading to inconsistency in restrictions across the North.

“In the latest guidance from Government there is a presumption that wards with a low number of cases will start to revert to the national restrictions this week. Adding and subtracting restrictions ward by ward makes the already confused local regulations almost impossible to understand for residents so it begs the question whether restrictions across partial geography can be of any use at all.

“On top of this, people’s patience is wearing thin with the confusion.

“They need to know that the restrictions are fair otherwise they won’t keep to them.

“We all know that there are wider health impacts that the restrictions are causing such as mental illness, and economic hardship that can have an equally detrimental impact and people are naturally now questioning the Government’s approach.

“We as local leaders have to have a national framework to operate within which works.  As well as the confusion for members of the public, services are not delivered ward by ward.

“Police, environmental health, enforcement officers and others all work to a common regulatory framework across the local authority.

“To avoid all these pitfalls brought in by the latest Government direction, we think that Bradford, Calderdale and Kirklees should join the rest of the UK in the national level of restrictions, the messaging would be clearer for the public and we’d stand a better chance of people complying.

“But going down this route also means Government needs to give us the resources and tools to ramp up our activity locally.

“Different restrictions ward by ward and place by place decided by Tory backbench MPs undermines local council leadership and is no way to lead a nation through a national pandemic."

Kirklees Council...

Cllr Shabir Pandor, leader of Kirklees Council, also expressed his frustration, urging Health Secretary Matt Hancock to lift restrictions “for the whole of Kirklees”.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

Mr McCartney, the Conservative MP for Colne Valley, described it as “a thinly-veiled attack” on MPs like himself who have called for postcode level restrictions in areas of infection.

What do other Bradford MPs say?

Shipley MP Philip Davies, who has repeatedly called for the ward to be exempt from any stricter lockdown measures imposed in Bradford, said “the level of cases don’t justify” any further measures.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

He said: “This confirms clearly that the Labour Council in Bradford believes that the Shipley constituency should remain in a local lockdown – even though the level of cases don’t justify it – for as long as other parts of the Bradford district with much higher rates remain in the local lockdown.

“This local lockdown is affecting the livelihoods and businesses of my constituents – and all because the Labour leadership in Bradford can’t bear to see different parts of the district treated differently.

While Ilkley MP Robbie Moore said the letter was “both bizarre and irresponsible”.

He said: "The same council leaders that asked for a reintroduction of restrictions due to high Covid cases are now asking for local restrictions to be lifted altogether and brought in line with the rest of the country.

"Doing this at a time when infection rates are still higher in certain areas of the Bradford District than elsewhere puts lives at risk."

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

However Judith Cummins, Labour MP for Bradford South, backed the council’s plea - she believes using ward boundaries would add “a new layer of complexity to an already complex situation”.

She added: "On Tuesday, I attended a meeting of local MPs and representatives of Bradford Council to discuss our position on the continuation of local restrictions in Bradford. The information presented to me at that meeting showed a downwards trend across the vast majority of my Bradford South constituency as well as a low overall rate of infection in almost all Bradford South wards. This is positive news which reflects the continuing efforts of local residents to stop the spread of infection.   

Bradford Telegraph and Argus:

“I therefore strongly argued that the whole of my Bradford South constituency should be allowed to leave the local restrictions and revert to the national restrictions. I believe that doing this would allow support to be targeted at those areas which still have a high level of infection.  

"We also discussed the feasibility of ward-by-ward restrictions. It was reported to the meeting that the Outbreak Management Board - which includes local hospitals, CCGs, the police, and community & faith groups – had outlined concerns that administering and policing differing restrictions across ward boundaries would be unworkable. I am also concerned that using ward boundaries would add a new layer of complexity to an already complex situation.    

"I know many of my constituents feel they are being unfairly penalised by being restricted from visiting their families and loved ones or prevented from opening their businesses. I do not believe these measures are the most effective way to reduce the infection rate, which must be done through widespread testing and an effective contact tracing service.  I made my views on this clear in the meeting.  

“The final decision on local restrictions lies with the Secretary of State for Health. I strongly hope that this Governments listens to the representations of all local MPs equally and not only members of their party. To act in a narrow political way during a national pandemic would be divisive. I await the announcement tomorrow.”