18 Jul Coronavirus: Government will step in if councils don’t act quickly over local outbreaks | UK News
Councils in England now have extra powers to impose shutdowns if clusters of coronavirus appear – but central government will step in if local authorities don’t go far enough or act fast enough, Grant Shapps has told Sky News.
From today, councils can close specific premises, shut public outdoor spaces and cancel events.
Announcing the change, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “These powers will enable local authorities to act more quickly in response to outbreaks where speed is paramount.”
Mr Shapps, who is secretary of state for transport, said: “They will have the powers and they will be able to act immediately, wherever that’s required… but the powers will be there, which is a change in order to make these things happen faster and be more responsive to the position on the ground.”
But he also added: “Ultimately government has ultimate power and control.”
It comes amid concerns around two specific areas where the number of coronavirus cases are rising: Wakefield in West Yorkshire and Burton in Staffordshire.
Sky News’ Fraser Maude, who is in Wakefield, said the council insists the overall figures for the area are relatively low.
“They don’t believe that they’re anywhere near implementing any of the lightning lockdowns which have now been approved by the PM,” he said. “But people are being urged to protect themselves.”
Wakefield is now registering 20 new cases per 100,000 of population – up from 14.
There are three “mini hotspots”: a meat factory in the city where 17 people have tested positive; a factory where four people have tested positive; and a centre for asylum seekers where there have been 20 reported cases.
Next week, the prime minister will give details on extra powers for central government that will allow parliament to close factories and entire sectors of the economy in specific regions.
The powers will include enforcing stay-at-home orders, preventing people entering or leaving areas, closing roads, restricting public transport and reducing the maximum size of gatherings.
In a tweet today, Mr Johnson said: “Action by local councils will not always be sufficient, so next week we will publish draft regulations explaining how central government can intervene at a local level.”
He added: “It has to be right that we take local action in response to local outbreaks – there is no point shutting down a city in one part of the country to contain an outbreak in another part of the country.”
It comes as the row over how a lockdown on Leicester and some surrounding areas was imposed, with very little advance notice.
The city’s Labour mayor has accused the government of penalising businesses and residents in a city that predominantly votes Labour.
The rate of new coronavirus cases per 100,000 population in Leicester dropped from 126.1 in the seven days to 7 July to 92.9 in the seven days to 14 July, according to data published on Friday.