United Kingdom

Statford-on-Avon launches legal action in bid to get out of Covid Tier 3 

Stratford-on-Avon District Council has mounted a legal challenge against the Government's 'arbitrary and irrational' decision to put it in Tier 3.

Its Conservative leader Tony Jefferson today sent a Judicial Review pre-action letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, urging him to retract the allocation.

He said the decision to impose the harshest restrictions when the national lockdown ends tonight had caused uproar among beleaguered businesses.

The council railed against being lumped into Tier 3 with the rest of Warwickshire and claimed Stratford's infection rate was the second lowest in the whole of the West Midlands.

It further ratchets up pressure on Boris Johnson to carve up large counties with varying case rates into different Covid alert levels. 

The threat of court action from Stratford's council will be especially uncomfortable for business minister Nadhim Zahawi, the local MP who was last week charged with overseeing the roll-out of a vaccine, putting him at the heart of the PM's war on coronavirus. 

The backlash from local leaders will be embarrassing for the constituency MP, business minister Nadhim Zahawi, (pictured with Carrie Symonds in 2019) who was last week charged with overseeing the roll-out of a vaccine, putting him at the heart of Boris Johnson's war on coronavirus

The council claimed Stratford's (file photo) infection rate was the second lowest in the whole of the West Midlands and demanded ministers zone in on individual districts rather than lumping the whole of Warwickshire into the same tier 

Explaining the decision, Mr 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 that the Government did not use much greater granularity in deciding on tiers. 

'I know that 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; and 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 to put Stratford district in Tier 3 therefore appears arbitrary and irrational.'

Hospitality bosses have been railing against the Tier 3 measures since they were announced last week, which forces pubs and restaurants to close other than for takeaways.

Conservative leader Tony Jefferson sent a Judicial Review pre-action letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, urging him to retract the allocation

Mr Jefferson said there was a 'widespread feeling of disbelief and anger locally' at the decision, adding 'hospitality businesses are devastated by the news'. 

He added: '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. 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 council has decided to send a PAP letter, which sets out what must be done to avoid a matter potentially ending up in court, after it compared the seven-day infection rates per 100,000 people in the district and neighbouring areas.

The district forms part of a sub-regional group for the purposes of being placed into Tier 3, which includes the rest of the county, together with Coventry and Solihull - all of which's case rates are higher.

According to the latest Government Covid data, in the seven days to Saturday the case rate for Stratford was 83.

But for Nuneaton and Bedworth, in the county's north, it was 232, North Warwickshire district was 252, Solihull 177, Coventry 189, Rugby 158, and Warwick 117.

It has previously been reported Stratford has the lowest average case rate of any area in the country being placed into Tier 3.

There is also concern about the Government's approach, when neighbouring Redditch - which is set to go into Tier 2 along with the rest of Worcestershire on Tuesday - has a seven-day rate of 187, more than two times the rate of Stratford.

Its other Worcestershire neighbour, Bromsgrove, also has a higher case rate, at 161 per 100,000.

Some backbench Tory MPs have been calling on the Government to carve up large counties with varying coronavirus rates, such as Kent.

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