Jack Brooke-Battersby
By Jack Brooke-Battersby

Senior Staff Writer

14 September 2020

| | 4 min read


Leader's statement to Cabinet - 14/09/2020

Council Leader Cllr Nick Forbes' speech to Cabinet on how all the region’s councils are working together and asking government to agree to stricter measures to tackle COVID and keep our communities safe.

Newcastle Civic Centre
Newcastle Civic Centre

Last week the leaders of councils in Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and Durham and I came together to express our deep concern at the number of positive cases we are seeing across the region, particularly among young people.

Unfortunately, our worst fears are being realised and just seven days later we are seeing the rates of infection rising at an alarming rate.

The rates we are seeing in Newcastle – 62 per 100,000 – is at a similar level to Sandwell and Solihull when they became part of Birmingham’s local measures announced last week.

We are not prepared to sit and wait for intervention – we want to work with government to act now to make our communities safe and ensure the virus does not get out of control.

That is why we have raised the city’s alert level to amber and considering the need to raise it higher and we are working across borders with local authorities, the police, hospital trust and other key stakeholders to do everything we can to get the infection levels down and keep our communities safe.

Over the weekend and today we have been in discussion with government on a range of measures which the region is seeking to implement.

We know from our testing results that pubs and homes are the main areas where the virus is being transmitted and it is these areas where we will be looking to provide enhanced guidance and support.

So reducing domestic contacts and as far as possible allowing safe environments outside the home to continue functioning with more regulation and enforcement of those in breach of the legislation is key.

That might include restrictions on pub opening times, making sure it is table service only and that every customer’s details are collected for track and trace.

While the vast majority of businesses have operated properly there are sadly some which aren’t.

My message to businesses is simple – if you stick to the rules and operate in a Covid-secure way we will do all we can to keep you open.

Part of our ask is also to gain greater control over testing and contact tracing. While our teams have done a great job there is no doubt we need more capacity across our region.

Like all the region’s councils, Newcastle has been working hard to protect our communities, keep frontline services running, supporting our most vulnerable residents and helping businesses reopen.

We need our residents to support us by joining us in not waiting to be told but to follow the guidance now.

  • Social distancing is still the best defence we have, along with washing hands for 20 seconds and covering our faces when we are asked and required to do so.
  • People who have symptoms or are asked to do so by the Health Protection teams must book a test and self-isolate until they have their results.

By not following the guidance, advice and legislation you are at greater risk of spreading the virus to your own family, which as we have seen can lead to tragic consequences.

The North East is an incredibly well-connected region and Newcastle is at the centre, whether it is for work, shopping or leisure. The virus does not stop at the city borders and nor as some people seem to think has it gone away.

All of the local authorities – Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, North and South Tyneside, Northumberland and County Durham are unanimous that we need to introduce stricter measures now to protect our communities and we hope the government will back us in this move.

We all need to do our bit to avoid pressures on the NHS as well as any further economically and socially damaging full lockdowns – to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our great city and the wider region.