‘Not quite lockdown’ for Brum  

Birmingham leaders tighten enforceable lockdown rules

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It was announced today (August 25) that Birmingham City Council is to introduce a series of legally enforceable measures from tomorrow to try and contain the spread of Covid-19 apparently now taking hold of the city. Earlier government recommendations will now become enforceable by law.

The move comes after consultation with the UK government over a recent spike in Birmingham’s case numbers – despite figures in recent days seem to suggest the number of cases were coming down.

The new powers will allow the council and police to investigate reports of business premises which are failing to comply with Covid-secure risk assessments – and issue fines.

They will allow local council chiefs to restrict access to, or even close bars or restaurants if they are deemed to be creating a risk.

It will also give the council powers to prohibit certain types of event taking place on the basis of a maximum event size, including life events such as weddings or funerals – although the council has said there is no intention to change the numbers of people that can attend these events.

It will also give officials the power to restrict access to, or close, public outdoor places if there is believed to be a public health need to.

Move welcomed

The move was welcomed by Unite. Unite regional secretary for the West Midlands Annmarie Kilcline said, “Hopefully these measures will help prevent the need for a full-scale lockdown in Birmingham, which would have a severe impact on the regional economy, put our public services under further strain and affect the mental well-being of every citizen.

“These measures should be a reminder to all employers and organisations, if one were needed, that strict social distancing and safety measures must be maintained.”

Leader of Birmingham City Council, Ian Ward agreed. “While the recent figures show our rates are going down, we cannot be complacent,” he said.

“No one wants to see a continual ‘stop, start’ approach as to what citizens can do and where they can go, least of all our business community,” he added.

“These new powers will allow us to intervene when businesses are putting staff and customers at risk of infection. By all working together to take action now, we can hopefully bring the numbers down, prevent further restrictions and protect the health and jobs of people across the city.”

A sentiment noted by Kilcline.  “Unite has thousands of members across the West Midlands, from manufacturing and the food and drink sector to the NHS and local government, and any further tightening of the lockdown will have a potentially devastating impact on firms, jobs and the wider economy. We must do all we can to avoid that scenario.”

What is becoming clear, Kilcline believes, is that there is not going to be any kind of ‘easy fix’ before a Covid-19 vaccine is developed.

“As we approach autumn and winter and the risk of full localised lockdowns increase, the government must ensure affected communities receive the help they need.

Job retention scheme extension

“Unite has been advocating for the job retention scheme to be extended for a longer period of time and to include short time working provisions – as has happened in countries in Europe. As an absolute rock bottom minimum, extra support for workers who need to stop work because of local lockdowns must be available. The same goes for those facing eviction during a local lockdown,” she added.

“There must also be no repeat of the situation in Leicester, where no additional funding from Whitehall was available during its lockdown, despite the extra pressure that was put on public services, such as the NHS and local government.

“Unite is committed to work constructively with all stakeholders, including the Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, to bring this current outbreak in Birmingham under control,” concluded Kilcline.

Compiled by Amanda Campbell @amanda_unite

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