Published on 9 December 2020
Archived on 9 January 2021
Statement from Cllr Tony Jefferson, Leader Stratford-on-Avon District Council:
"First, Stratford-on-Avon District Council acknowledges the extraordinarily difficult position in which the Government finds itself, dealing with the greatest public health emergency that the country has ever experienced in modern times.
"The District Council has been supportive of all of the measures that the Government has put in place throughout the pandemic and share the common objective of keeping our residents safe. It was, therefore, an incredibly difficult decision for the District Council to challenge the Government on this issue.
"The fundamental reasons for the challenge relate to the massive reliance on the hospitality industry coupled with the very low infection rates within our District.
"The District of Stratford-on-Avon has a higher proportion of its economy reliant upon the hospitality industry than any other part of the West Midlands. In 2019 the district received a total of 6.5m visitors from Britain and around the globe. There are over 9,000 jobs in the district reliant upon tourism and hospitality. It has been reported nationally that the economy of Stratford is the fourth worst affected in the country and the worst affected area in the West Midlands.
"The infection rates, at the point that the Government made its tiering decision to place Stratford-on-Avon District in Tier 3, demonstrated that we were amongst the lowest in the country. Of 30 local authorities in the West Midlands, only Malvern Hills District Council had a lower rate of infections than Stratford-on-Avon District. Seven local authority areas in the West Midlands with a higher infection rate than did Stratford-on-Avon District were placed in Tier 2. Indeed, one Tier 2 authority had an infection rate nearly three times higher than Stratford-on-Avon District.
"The rates for Stratford-on-Avon District continue to fall and the latest position shows that the current rate for the district is 45.4 per 100,000 over 7 days, with only a handful of authorities including Cornwall nationally having a lower rate. It has to be stressed that all our indicators are relatively low and the trend is still downward.
"After much delay, at lunchtime yesterday, Tuesday 8 December, the District Council received a response from the Government's Legal Department setting out the response to the our challenge.
"The response stands by the original decision to assess areas at upper tier local authority level and the rationale for including Stratford-on-Avon District in a wider cluster with Coventry and Solihull and the whole of Warwickshire. This was on the grounds of the serious and imminent threat to public health, and to do so at a lower level would have 'resulted in a 'patchwork quilt' which was confusing for the public and led to a lack of compliance'. Whilst this is not the response we had hoped for, we do accept that Government had to make a decision on an appropriate geography to make its assessment. However, we did note that in some areas of the country decisions were made on a more granular level and will be reviewing the decisions that the Government make next week.
"In their response the Government also shared some new information with us of which we were not aware when we made the decision to challenge them; that the County Council requested the approach of considering tiers at public health, upper tier authority level along with clustering with Coventry and Solihull.
"We are satisfied that Government has listened to our direct concerns and those made by other authorities in the same position. There have been a number of announcements from Ministers including Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Prime Minster, stating that they will consider tiering at a lower level for the review scheduled for next week.
"Indeed, a letter from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to the Leader of Warwickshire County Council states: "I also set out to the House that we will formally review the data and tier allocations for all area across England two weeks from when the tiers come into force - so on 16 December. Then we will again assess each area individually, including Warwickshire, on its own merits. I hope this provides you with the assurance you seek."
Whilst we have not achieved the immediate result that we had hoped for, it was absolutely appropriate, with the information we had available at the time, that the District Council raised the formal challenge with Government. We are also conscious that any formal legal action challenging this decision would now not be heard before the review of tiers scheduled for the 16 December. At this stage, therefore, we are not pursuing further legal action.
"Ahead of next week's review the Government has committed to meeting with us and the other Warwickshire authorities. This will provide us with the opportunity to further champion our position. We expect that this meeting will be held later this week.
"We will be asking the Government to recognise the continuing improvement in the position in Stratford-on-Avon District and to move us out of Tier 3 at the next review to allow for our hospitality industry to salvage some trade ahead of Christmas."
Stratford-on-Avon District Council
Elizabeth House, Church Street,
Tel: 01789 267575