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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 

London 

SW1A 2AA

 

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.

Yours sincerely

Steve Rotheram 

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

City Region Secures ÂŁ44 million Tier 3 Covid-19 Support Package

Liverpool City Region has secured an additional ÂŁ30 million in COVID-19 business support from the Government.

It comes in addition to the ÂŁ14 million already received to support the local Test, Trace and Isolate system and local enforcement efforts, to make a total of ÂŁ44 million in additional funding secured in support of the Tier 3 restrictions.

The City Region also received ÂŁ7m when it went in to Tier 2 status, meaning a total package of ÂŁ51m so far.

The funding comes after the City Region was the first to be placed on the Tier 3 ‘very high’ Covid alert level restrictions, leading to closures of hospitality and leisure business and impacting many that remain open.

Speaking on behalf of  Sefton Council leader Cllr Ian Maher, the City Mayor and Leaders of the other five city region Local Authorities including  Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram said: “Once it became clear that Tier 3 restrictions were going to be imposed on our City Region, we held a series of meetings with the Government, throughout last weekend, with the aim of protecting our NHS and supporting local people and businesses.

“We have been absolutely clear since we were put in to Tier 3 that we would continue to press the Government and hold meaningful dialogue to secure vitally needed extra economic support.

“The result of this is that, today, we have obtained from the Government, an additional £30million in funding.

“This is welcome news for our economy and the thousands of people whose businesses and jobs will now be supported through this very difficult period.”

Find out more about the latest COVID restrictions and guidance for people considered clinically extremely vulnerable.

Council is contacting clinically extremely vulnerable residents to ensure they can access support

After the recent introduction by the Government of new, Tier 3 restrictions across the Liverpool City Region, Sefton Council is contacting the Borough’s residents who are considered clinically extremely vulnerable to remind them where they can find advice.

Text messages have already been sent to 17,000 of the 22,000 or so Sefton residents who fall into the clinically extremely vulnerable category for whom the Council has a mobile phone number. Now the Council is using various methods to contact the remaining 5,000, including a direct mailshot.

Sefton Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing Cllr Ian Moncur said: “People who are clinically extremely vulnerable are likely to be those who have specific health conditions, certain cancers or who are organ transplant recipients and who were told previously to shield because they were at a high were risk from COVID-19.

“This is probably still the case for those people, which is why we want to get in touch with them and tell them where they can find support if they need it.”

The Government’s basic advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable is that they should stay at home as much as possible, work from home where possible and avoid all but essential travel. They are also being told to reduce shopping trips significantly, to use online delivery services or ask other people in their household, support bubble or volunteers to collect food and medicines.

Clinically extremely vulnerable people should, the Government’s advice says, still try to go outside for exercise, and can still go to school and to work if they cannot work from home.

Cllr Moncur continued: “There is information and a set of Frequently Asked Questions on our website at www.sefton.gov.uk/covidfaqs. However, we realise not everyone has access to the Internet and online information which is why we are exploring a range of methods, including printed flyers or letters to get the message out.

“What we want to tell people is that if are clinically extremely vulnerable and need support, they should contact the Council’s Call Centre on 0345 140 0845.

“Contact centre staff will assess people’s needs and will be able to arrange support ranging from supermarket slots to assisted shopping, befriending and medicine deliveries.”

Cllr Moncur added: “I would also ask anyone who knows a Sefton resident who they suspect might fall into the clinically extremely vulnerable category and who might struggle to get information or support to contact them and give them the Call Centre’s 0345 140 0845 number.

“Or they can contact the Call Centre themselves and provide us with people’s details if they have concerns about them.”

You can find the the Government’s information for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable here. 

Joint statement from Metro Mayor, City Mayor and Leaders of the six Liverpool City Region Local Authorities

“This week the Government imposed Tier 3 restrictions on Liverpool City Region.

“We are very conscious of the high rates of coronavirus in our region and the pressure this causes on our NHS, and have therefore always understood the need for some action to bring the virus under control and protect our residents. However, we have always been clear that we were given no choice about the specific package of measures that would be applied to us, or the scientific evidence to support them.

“We note the decision to move Lancashire into Tier 3 today, while also being concerned that there appear to be differences between the two packages of measures, particularly the opening of gyms.  We therefore require Government to explain, with evidence, why they believe gyms in the Liverpool City Region are a greater risk for COVID transmission, than those elsewhere.

“We simply will not 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 once again demanding that government urgently supplies us with the scientific evidence behind their decision to close gyms in our area, while allowing them to stay open in other areas.

“In the meantime, we are doing everything we can to support hospitality and leisure businesses that are affected by the new restrictions via our own £40m emergency fund, using local funds that have been repurposed to support our economy.  The fund has opened for applications today, and we are continuing to press the Government for a wider economic support package, including increased funding for furlough and self-employed people.”

Steve Rotheram
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 

Remaining October dates and locations for Sefton’s Mobile Test Units

Once again, Sefton has been hosting Mobile coronavirus testing units across the Borough through October.

This month  has seen Mobile Units visiting Aintree Race Course for the first time.

Walk-through test centres, opposite Bootle Town Hall and at Southport Town Hall, are also open from 8am to 8pm.

Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms of a high temperature, persistent cough or loss of taste or smell– should get a test.

To get a test, people need to have make an appointment first at www.nhs.uk/coronavirus or call 119.

Remaining October dates and Mobile Test Unit locations 

Thursday 29th Southport Park & Ride

Friday 30th Southport Park & Ride

Saturday 31st Maghull

* Walk-through test centres, opposite Bootle Town Hall and at Southport Town Hall, will be open from 8am to 8pm on Saturday 24th.

The days and sites may change if Mobile Units are required in other Merseyside locations.

Mobile Testing Units , which are supported by Sefton Council, NHS Southport and Formby CCG and NHS South Sefton CCG, have visited locations across the Borough on most days throughout July, August and September.

Find out the latest advice from Margaret Jones, Sefton’s Director of Public Health.

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