Let's hope for a loosening of coronavirus restrictions sooner rather than later
Column by Councillor Martin Hill, leader of Lincolnshire County Council
As we come to the end of 2020, there has been a strong feeling of disappointment with the announcement that Lincolnshire was to start December under the cloud of tier three restrictions.
It felt particularly hard learning that our local area was to be included among those areas with the highest level of restrictions imposed on us, although coronavirus rates here have been significantly lower than other districts in the county.
I joined our local MPs Gareth Davies and Sir John Hayes in writing to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to convey our profound disappointment.
We recognise that throughout this unprecedented crisis, the Government has been forced to make difficult decisions as they strive to keep people safe and protect the NHS.
However, as the case rates in our districts are lower than scores of other areas in tier two including places that border them, we have serious concerns about the impact this will have on our residents’ wellbeing and, in many cases, their livelihoods.
We have urged the Government to reconsider the present arrangements, particularly as infection rates are falling.
Instead we are proposing that restrictions are based on either district (not county) boundaries, or boundaries that accurately reflect where people travel and socialise.
Categorising the combined districts of South Holland and South Kesteven in the same tier as Peterborough, Norfolk and Rutland would be a more sensible and more targeted approach.
The Secretary of State, Matt Hancock, has given us some reassurance, that when the data is reviewed in a fortnight, each area will be assessed on its individual merits, including those within Lincolnshire.
This gives me some hope that our area may have restrictions loosened sooner rather than later, and the Government’s plan to relax those measures for five days over the Christmas period, gives us all some much-needed festive cheer.
I want to end on a positive note then, by re-affirming our commitment at the county council, to improving life for residents – something which the coronavirus pandemic has not quashed.
We have managed to continue with our key big investment projects this year, including the Grantham southern relief road.
The Government is clearly aware of the economic impacts of the continuing pandemic, with announcements of billions of pounds of funding to help businesses- directly and indirectly, and we will ensure Lincolnshire gets its share.
I’m also proud of how our staff have adapted to new ways of working and kept council services going, especially for the most vulnerable in our communities.
Ultimately, with the right national support, in Lincolnshire we are ready to help our industries come out fighting from an incredibly difficult year.
I wish you all a merry Christmas, and I hope we can stay positive about the many reasons we have to be hopeful about the future.