A West Midlands local council is mounting a legal challenge against the Government’s decision to place it into Tier 3 of coronavirus restrictions.
Stratford-on-Avon District Council has sent a Judicial Review pre-action protocol letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock.
Stratford and the rest of Warwickshire is in Tier 3 from today along with the seven districts of the neighbouring West Midlands county, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.
This means many businesses, particularly in the hospitality and entertainment sectors, must either remain closed or grapple with heavy restrictions on their trade.
The town relies heavily on the tourism industry due to its status as the birthplace of Shakespeare so has already had to endure an economic hammer blow over the peak summer months even before the latest lockdown which ended yesterday and this new tier system.
BusinessLive is your home for business news from around the country – and you can stay in touch with all the latest news through our email alerts.
You can sign up to receive daily morning news bulletins from every region we cover and to weekly email bulletins covering key economic sectors from manufacturing to technology and enterprise. And we’ll send out breaking news alerts for any stories we think you can’t miss.
Visit our email preference centre to sign up to all the latest news from BusinessLive.
Stratford Council said that, based on the information the Government had used in its tiering decisions, it had a seven-day rate of 118.4 cases of covid-19 per 100,000 people.
The number of cases from November 20 – 26 was 83 and as at 30 November it was 73.
Of the 30 local authorities in the wider West Midlands region, only Malvern Hills had a lower rate than Stratford, the authority said.
Stratford shares a border with Redditch in Worcestershire which had a seven-day case rate of 297.9 per 100,000, almost three times the rate of Stratford.
Redditch and the rest of Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin are all in Tier 2.
Stratford Council leader Coun Tony Jefferson said: “This is not an action we take lightly, however none of the data we see warrants Stratford-on-Avon District being placed in Tier 3.
“It is very disappointing the Government did not use much greater granularity in deciding on tiers.
“I know they have looked at a number of factors including the rates in all age groups, particularly older people who are more vulnerable to the virus.
“We have to take into consideration the pressure on our local hospitals and NHS services. However, none of the metrics for our district warrant it being placed in tier 3 – the decision appears arbitrary and irrational.
“There is a widespread feeling of disbelief and anger locally. Our hospitality businesses are devastated by the news.
“People know the relevant numbers for the area and fail to see the decision as either an accurate reflection of the situation or fair. Locally, Tier 3 is just not seen as credible.”
MPs voted in the House of Commons last night to approve the Government’s latest plans for a localised tier system by 291 to 78 votes.
Around 50 Tories rebelled and voted against it, including Solihull MP Julian Knight, while Labour MPs abstained with its leader Sir Keir Starmer criticising a lack of financial support for hospitality businesses.
Stratford Council is requesting the Department of Health and Social Care to retract the decision to put it into Tier 3 and downgrade it to 1 or 2.
Coun Jefferson added: “The prospect of a review as late as December 16 is no consolation. Most hospitality businesses will not now open before Christmas, I understand the effort and logistics make this very difficult.
“The consequences for business survival and unemployment could be significant. This against the context of Stratford-on-Avon being seen as the fourth hardest hit council area in the country.
“This is why we have taken the dramatic step of initiating a Judicial Review pre-action protocol.”
The Government has been contacted for a comment.