Stratford district council challenges Government’s ‘arbitrary’ Tier 3 move

Stratford-on-Avon District Council has issued a legal letter challenging the Government’s “arbitrary and irrational” decision to place it under Tier 3 controls after lockdown.

The Conservative leader of the council Tony Jefferson said the local authority had sent a Judicial Review pre-action protocol (PAP) letter to the Health Secretary.

It is urging Matt Hancock to “retract” the decision to put the district in Tier 3 along with the rest of Warwickshire, and instead place it into Tier 1 or 2.

Explaining the decision, Mr Jefferson said: “This is not an action we take lightly, however none of the data we see warrants Stratford-on-Avon District being placed in Tier 3.

Coronavirus – Sat Nov 28, 2020
People in Stratford, Warwickshire, will be in the more restrictive Tier 3 despite having some of the lowest infection rates in the country (Jacob King/PA)

“It is very disappointing that the Government did not use much greater granularity in deciding on tiers.

“I know that they have looked at a number of factors including the rates in all age groups, particularly older people who are more vulnerable to the virus; and we have to take into consideration the pressure on our local hospitals and NHS services.

“However, none of the metrics for our district warrant it being placed in Tier 3.

“The decision to put Stratford district in Tier 3 therefore appears arbitrary and irrational.”

Coronavirus – Mon Nov 30, 2020
The council has sent a legal letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, challenging the Tier 3 decision (Alberto Pezzali/PA)

He added there was a “widespread feeling of disbelief and anger locally” at the decision, adding “hospitality businesses are devastated by the news”.

Under Tier 3 measures, set to come into effect on Wednesday after lockdown ends, pubs, bars and restaurants must close with the exception of takeaways, deliveries and drive-thrus.

Mr Jefferson added: “People know the relevant numbers for the area and fail to see the decision as either an accurate reflection of the situation or fair.

“Locally, Tier 3 is just not seen as credible.

“The prospect of a review as late as December 16 is no consolation.

“Most hospitality businesses will not now open before Christmas – I understand the effort and logistics make this very difficult.

“The consequences for business survival and unemployment could be significant.

“This, against the context of Stratford-on-Avon being seen as the fourth hardest-hit council area in the country.

“This is why we have taken the dramatic step of initiating a Judicial Review pre action protocol.”

The council has decided to send a PAP letter, which sets out what must be done to avoid a matter potentially ending up in court, following its carrying out of a comparison of the seven-day infection rates per 100,000 people in the district and neighbouring areas.

The district forms part of a sub-regional group for the purposes of being placed into Tier 3, which includes the rest of the county, together with Coventry and Solihull – all of which’s case rates are higher.

According to the latest Government Covid data, in the seven days to Saturday the case rate for Stratford was 83.

But for Nuneaton and Bedworth, in the county’s north, it was 232, North Warwickshire district was 252, Solihull 177, Coventry 189, Rugby 158, and Warwick 117.

It has previously been reported Stratford has the lowest average case rate of any area in the country being placed into Tier 3.

There is also concern about the Government’s approach, when neighbouring Redditch – which is set to go into Tier 2 along with the rest of Worcestershire on Tuesday – has a seven-day rate of 187, more than two times the rate of Stratford.

Its other Worcestershire neighbour, Bromsgrove, also has a higher case rate, at 161 per 100,000.

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