City Region leaders demand ‘immediate review’ of gym and leisure centre closures
Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Council has joined The Metro Mayor, City Mayor and other Liverpool City Region Council leaders to ask the Government to conduct an ‘immediate review’ of its decision to close gyms under Tier 3 restrictions.
As part of the review, Government ministers are being asked to provide the scientific evidence to support the City Region’s gym and leisure centres being closed. If they are unable to do so, they are being asked to change the law so they can open again.
In the letter, the Metro Mayor, City Mayor and other Liverpool City Region Council leaders state that while the Government conducts any review of gym and leisure centre closures, they continue to urge everyone to follow the law as it currently stands and will fully support Merseyside Police in any enforcement activity required.
Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP
Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
10 Downing Street
19th October 2020
Dear Prime Minister
We are writing as the Leaders and Mayors of the City Region regarding the government’s decision to close gyms and leisure centres as part of Liverpool City Region’s tier 3 package.
We are very conscious of the high rates of coronavirus in our region and the pressure this causes our NHS, and have therefore always understood the need for action to bring the virus under control and protect the health of our residents.
As you will know we were given no choice about the specific package of measures that would be applied to us, but did ask for assurances that the restrictions in our area would have the desired effect of impacting on the transmission rate and take some of the pressure off our NHS, which faces being overwhelmed. To ensure the measures had the best chance of success, we requested the scientific evidence to support their imposition.
At no stage did we ask for gyms and leisure centres to be closed – despite several ministers subsequently erroneously claiming otherwise. Indeed, during talks we repeatedly questioned why decisions on the suite of regulations were being taken, specifically pointing to the fitness and mental health benefits that gyms and leisure centres provide to our residents. Responses to our requests for the scientific basis for the closure of gyms have, to date, not been forthcoming.
Last Friday the Government decided to place Lancashire into Tier 3. However, gyms there were not required to close. We find this decision perplexing. The Tier system was supposed to simplify the public’s understanding of restrictions to avoid the confusion of the local ‘lockdown’ patchwork quilt.
We simply cannot accept our region being treated differently to other Tier 3 areas, without robust scientific evidence. These inconsistencies in restrictions between areas within the same tier risk undermining the new system from the beginning.
So today we are writing to request an immediate review of the government’s decision to close gyms and leisure centres in the Liverpool City Region.
We believe this process should take the following steps:
1) The Government should provide the scientific evidence that gyms and leisure centres are in LCR are less safe than elsewhere in the country – or that they are significantly contributing to the spread of COVD-19 in our city region.
2) If (as we suspect) ministers are not able to provide this evidence, then we are requesting that the government amends the regulations passed by parliament last week – to rescind the inclusion of gyms and leisure centres from the list of restricted businesses – and allow them to safely re-open, at the earliest opportunity.
3) Under the legislation passed in Parliament our Tier 3 restrictions have to be reviewed in three weeks’ time. If the government is unable to provide evidence to justify gyms and leisure centres closures, and is also unable to amend the regulations before this point, then we ask that you give us the discretionary power locally to determine that gyms can re-opened at this point.
While this review is undertaken, we will of course continue to urge people to abide by the letter of the current legislation – and fully support Merseyside Police in the fantastic work they do to keep people in the City Region safe every day.
We look forward to receiving your response on this important issue.
Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region
Cllr Rob Polhill
Leader of Halton Council
Cllr Graham Morgan
Leader of Knowsley Council
Joe Anderson OBE
Mayor of Liverpool
Cllr Ian Maher
Leader of Sefton Council
Cllr David Baines
Leader of St Helens Council
Cllr Janette Williamson
Leader of Wirral Council
cc Ed Lister