SENIOR members of Bradford Council have accused the Government and local Conservative MPs of “political bias” and only lifting tighter restrictions “if you have a Tory MP”.
Just nine wards of the district have been released from the measures, meaning thousands are still subject to the restrictions imposed last month to curb the spread of Covid-19.
These are Craven, Ilkley and Worth Valley wards in the Keighley Parliamentary constituency and all six wards in the Shipley constituency – Baildon, Bingley, Bingley Rural, Shipley, Wharfedale and Windhill & Wrose.
Posting on Twitter last night, Bradford Council leader Susan Hinchcliffe said: “As a short cut if you have a Tory MP in the district you’re out unless you’re Keighley West, East and Central which Robbie Moore wanted to stay in”.
While Cllr Vanda Greenwood, chair of Health & Social Care on the Council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee, accused the government of “overruling” insight put forward by local councils at the requests of Conservative MPs Philip Davies and Robbie Moore.
Cllr Greenwood accused the Health Secretary Matt Hancock of showing “weakness” and “caving in to his back bench MP’s”.
Mr Davies, who represents the Shipley constituency, responded to the claims by saying Labour MPs and Bradford Council “would not countenance a ward by ward approach” and were “either all in or all out”.
He said the decision to only lift restrictions in nine areas of the district was “the inevitable consequence”.
In a statement, Mr Davies said: “Other wards in Bradford could have been released from the lockdown but the Labour MPs in Bradford and Bradford Council would not countenance a ward by ward approach for their areas. They insisted they were either all in or all out, and so that was the inevitable consequence.
“The Labour Party have let down many people in a number of wards who could have been released from the local lockdown but weren’t because of their dogmatic insistence that every ward had to be treated the same.
“The government asked us to look at each ward individually, and that is what both Robbie Moore and I did.
“In contrast Labour refused to do that and hoped that by playing hardball they would force the government to keep the whole district in the lockdown, as they knew there was no chance of the whole district being taken out.
“By playing such a stupid and reckless political game they have let down people across the Bradford district, and further damaged the local economy. I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of Labour Councillors urged Susan Hinchcliffe to consider her position given how recklessly she has treated their areas in playing a political game which has backfired.”
Bradford Council is not the only authority to accuse the Government of “overruling” local decision-makers.
In a statement on Friday, Trafford Council’s leader Andrew Western said it had made requests for the Government to remain in lockdown for “another week or two”.
He cited a small rise in infection rates and preparing for potential cases as a result of the return of schools.
Mr Western said the decision “makes a mockery of the claims of locally led decision making”, claiming “local government is being ignored in spite of being on the front line of this crisis.”
In a post on the Trafford Labour Facebook page, Mr Western said: “It is apparent that for all of their claims of working in collaboration with local authorities, the Government has decided to overrule the Council and lift restrictions in Trafford. We understand this will be announced today.
“Nobody in Government has bothered to discuss this with the Leader of the Council or explained the reasoning for this decision to anybody within the Council, and we reiterate our support for the position advocated by our Director of Public Health.”
Following Cllr Hinchcliffe’s tweet yesterday, political account @ShipleyTories, which is promoted by Jordan Booth on behalf of the Shipley Conservatives, retweeted the account, calling for people to “Vote Tory”.
It said: “Do as the Leader of Bradford Council herself suggests…..Vote Tory!!”
In response, Cllr Greenwood accused Conservatives of treating the issue as a “big joke”.
Speaking today, she told the Telegraph & Argus: “It is clear that the announcement yesterday was made on political bias, anyone can see that, In fact the local Conservatives are treating this as a joke, and have even been making light of it on social media.
“This is not a laughing matter in any sense of the word.
“Unfortunately they are looking at this issue through a very small lens and are focusing solely on infection rates. It is a fact that infection rates have been coming down over the last few weeks, which is a good thing, and we feel now it is time to relax the local restrictions across the district, to allow businesses to reopen before it is too late. It is grossly unfair and cruel that only a small number of businesses are able to open, which happen to be in Conservative areas.
“There are also wider implications to this, in particular Mental Illness, which can affect anyone whether you live in Ilkley, Shipley or Bradford. As Chair of the Health & Social Care overview & scrutiny committee, we hear regularly about the major problems facing us down the line. For example, we are unable to restart our valuable Dementia Sessions at St Cuthberts in Wrose because it is within the boundary of Bolton & Undercliffe who are still under local lockdown.
“The government has recently overruled Trafford Council’s wishes to remain in lockdown for another week or two in the interest of public safety, because there had been a slight rise in infection rates and the schools are due to go back in September. The Government announced on Friday that the restrictions would be lifted, at the request of the local Conservative MP.
“The Health Secretary has shown his weakness by caving in to his back bench MP’s, one of which doesn’t even live in Bradford, instead of listening to the Council who have a full overview of the whole of the district. I really hope that he can review this decision as soon as possible and consider the health & wellbeing of Bradford residents rather than playing politics.”