As I am sure many of my constituents will have seen, the Government has issued guidance to people living in Kirklees (and certain other towns and cities across England) to avoid travelling outside your local area unless essential, to meet outside where possible and to keep two metres apart from people who are not in your household or support bubble.
The Government issued this guidance by merely changing their website – with no official announcement being made, even to the borough’s public health bodies. This shows contempt for the people of Huddersfield and Kirklees. It is laughable that the Government believes that merely changing a website is a sufficient way to notify residents that their guidance has changed.
When it was decided that the guidance would change, there should have been a public briefing giving Kirklees residents advance notice of the new regulations. Throughout the pandemic, we have seen that people need to be given clear information about the rules in order to be able to follow them and understand their rationale.
Sadly, it seems we are back to the wishy-washy and secretive changes of the kind that we saw back in the autumn.
As soon as I found out about the change in the guidance, I contacted the Chief Executive of Kirklees Council, Jacqui Gedman, who said that the council has also been kept in the dark. It is so important for the proper functioning of local authorities that they are contacted and advised about these matters in advance.
It is a crucial time for the University of Huddersfield with lots of parents and prospective students visiting campus for open days and visits. There are also implications for local businesses. Our businesses have been struggling for well over a year now and have just been given permission to reopen open. It could be devastating for these businesses to lose out on much needed footfall due to the Government’s unclear communication with the people of Kirklees
We have worked tirelessly, on a cross-party basis, in our regular Kirklees Outbreak Control Board meetings to ensure that the focus remains on tackling Covid-19 rates and continuing with vaccinations. Yesterday, the Control Board issued the following statement.
“Kirklees continues to follow the roadmap out of restrictions alongside the rest of England. Given our high infection rates, we are urging residents and visitors to be cautious but there are no restrictions to travel into and out of Kirklees. Pubs and restaurants remain open for business.
“Deaths and hospitalisations relating to COVID-19 remain low in Kirklees but with rising infection rates, everyone in Kirklees has a part to play in keeping themselves and their community safe. That’s why we’re urging people to get tested, stick to the guidance and – above all – to get vaccinated when you are eligible. Maintaining social distancing and meeting outdoors are sensible ways of reducing infections but residents can still travel in and out of the borough in line with national restrictions.”
I have been impressed by the determination of the Kirklees Public Health team in dealing with this challenge and I fully support the recommendations that we have arrived at as a local authority. I implore everyone to be safe and cautious and to follow the recommendations set by Kirklees Council.