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Statement on behalf of the Leaders of the seven North East Local Authorities and the North of Tyne Combined Authority - 21 September 2020

As soon as new COVID control measures were introduced across the North East we began lobbying Government to include an exemption to allow families to continue their informal childcare arrangements.

This was an exemption we asked for in our original request to Government and we're delighted the Secretary of State has reversed his decision.

We knew these restrictions would ask a lot of our communities, but we did not want them to hinder people unnecessarily.

The sight of our usually busy city centres and high streets falling into near silence when 10pm passed on Friday night once again emphasised the need for government to help us to support the businesses inevitably impacted by these necessary restrictions.

Residents across the North East, who have already experienced so much hardship during the pandemic, responded brilliantly once again and observed new legislation to control COVID-19.

For weeks we have seen infection rates rise and having taken the difficult step to request tighter controls, it was pleasing to see residents answer our call by doing what had been asked.

If we are to wrestle control back from the virus and protect our region, we all need to comply with the new legislation and follow the guidance. The better we do this in the short term, the sooner they will be relaxed.

In requesting greater control, we told the Department of Health and Social Care that businesses will need added financial assistance to offset the loss in trade. Sadly, this has not been forthcoming, but we will carry on fighting for all those businesses which continue to operate within the legislation and do their bit to control the virus.

As we have done successfully with childcare measures, we will continue to lobby for further improvements to other areas that have experienced difficulty as a result of this action. We share residents frustrations that many predictable problems have been overlooked by Government.  

The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser have again outlined today just what a critical situation we are in and likely to face for the next six months. Further developments are expected from the Prime Minister this week and we have no doubt residents across the North East will continue to rise to the challenges facing them in order to defeat this horrific virus.

But as we settle into this new period and become accustomed to the changes, we are calling on everyone to ensure they comply with the new measures, whether or not they have been written into law.

Much of what is being asked is guidance and is not enforceable by law. But, as leaders of seven local authorities and a Combined Authority, we urge you all to comply with every request.

We asked for a system that would allow people to go about their lives and most businesses to be able to continue, but with an added layer of protection in place. The North East remains open for business but these measures are there to allow us to enjoy the region's wonderful towns and cities safely.

These steps have been implemented to protect us and to help prevent the most vulnerable from catching this deadly disease. We are all aware of the difficult demands on our communities and businesses but we must all do our bit and work together and that is how we will save countless lives and allow our region to recover.

Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council

Cllr Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council

Cllr Glen Sanderson, Interim Leader of Northumberland County Council

Norma Redfearn, Mayor of North Tyneside Council

Cllr Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council

Cllr Graeme Miller, Leader of Sunderland City Council

Cllr Simon Henig, Leader of Durham County Council

Jamie Driscoll, North of Tyne Mayor

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