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Council leader writes to government to urge that Stoke-on-Trent should not go into highest tiers after lockdown

Published: Monday, 23rd November 2020

The council leader for Stoke-on-Trent City Council has written to Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care,to urge that Stoke-on-Trent should not go into one of the highest tier

The letter, from cllr Abi Brown, sets out the case for why she believes that Stoke-on-Trent should not go into one of the highest tiers set out by the government given the city’s track record in reducing the spread of coronavirus and based on a number of other factors. It comes as the city council reveals that coronavirus cases are starting to decline within Stoke-on-Trent with a repeated reduction over recent days.

While it is not yet known exactly what the new tiers are, it follows speculation that the government is likely to announce tomorrow (Monday 23 November) what the revised tier system with more restrictions will look like when lockdown ends on 2 December. An announcement is then anticipated on Thursday setting out where each local authority is to be placed in the tiers.

It is expected that through the government’s revised tiering system, the toughest tiers will not allow for any household mixing and means that pubs and bars that don’t provide food will need to remain shut, which will impact significantly on hospitality ahead of Christmas.

Local authorities are expected to be tiered according to the number of coronavirus cases an area has. Within the previous tiering system, areas with over 400 cases per 100,000 of the population were put into tier 3.

Stoke-on-Trent had previously asked government to be placed into tier 2 in October as a proactive measure to halt the spread of the virus in the city, a measure which has started to pay off with cases reducing in the city. Total cases in 7 days are now 1231 down from 1502 following a peak of cases on 13 and 14 November. Coronavirus rates for Stoke-on-Trent currently stand at 480.2 per 100,000.

Cllr Brown writes: “Stoke-on-Trent is unique. We are one of the only areas in the whole country to have de-escalated from being an area of concern – not just once, but twice - and we are seeing the same again. Rates are falling – case numbers have broadly reduced over the last six days in a row - and if they follow the likely trajectory we’ll continue to see a steady decline over coming days. We proactively and responsibly asked for Stoke-on-Trent to go into tier 2 in the previous system for exactly that reason. That request is now paying dividends with rates falling, underlying the fact that we are a responsible council and know what is best for local public health and for the economy.”

“This has been as a result of a huge amount of hard work by our residents, who respond to strong, local leadership but also because we, alongside key partners in Stoke-on-Trent, know what we’re doing. We have put considerable resources into our communications, enforcement and compliance and our testing and we have strengthened our own contact tracing to complement what is in place nationally.

“We have the highest testing rate by far in the West Midlands – nearly 600 per 100,000 of the population - which is amazing. We have championed lateral flow testing - which gives results within one hour - and if we can continue to target it as we have been doing then it will continue as one of our main defences against the virus. Our intention is to ramp this up quickly - with or without national support - because it’s the right thing to do for the people of Stoke-on-Trent. It allows us to continue to deliver essential services in the city and supports communities to be able to back to their daily lives as quickly as possible.

“Our compliance and enforcement efforts - working hand-in-hand with Staffordshire Police – through our dedicated team of Covid-19 marshals is starting to pay off and tackling the small minority in the city who are flouting the rules deliberately.

“We have strengthened our local contact tracing with a new 14-strong team in place to support people to self-isolate as they should. We have also provided support and advice through our Stoke-on-Trent Together seven days a week and our 24-hour mental health helpline working with third sector partners who we’ve made direct funding available for.

“We continue to work incredibly closely with our colleagues in the NHS and only this weekend, we have deployed council social care and health staff into wards to provide support as well as providing other social care staff to support other health partners.

“The city council has also provided huge support to care homes and other high-risk settings. We had one of the lowest rates of cases in care homes in phase one and it is similar now. This has been in part as a result of the specialist care home infection team that we introduced with our partners in the NHS.”

“We have worked hard to direct funding to businesses to support them at this time. We also know that for the good of the city and for people’s livelihoods, it’s critical that we are given the chance to avoid going into one of the highest tiers after lock-down. We want our hospitality and leisure sectors to be able to survive and want to do all we can to support them. Ignoring the whole picture will destroy public support and confidence. 

The letter concludes: “We understand there is a fine balance to strike between the economy and public health but within this city, we know what we are doing and we need government to support us, not to penalise us at this time. Putting us into one of the lower tiers is appropriate - we’d urge you to trust us and take our proven track record into account and our direct actions to combat COVID-19 rather than just focus on current case numbers.”

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