EXTRA lockdown restrictions must be right for Warrington – not just Merseyside – says the council leader, Russ Bowden.

Tighter rules could be introduced by government this week to tackle the increasing number of Covid-19 cases.

But Cllr Bowden says he is against a so-called 'circuit break' mini-lockdown being favoured by some officials and politicians on Merseyside.

It would see many businesses being forced to shut for a two-week period to help bring coronavirus rates under control.

Cllr Bowden was among council leaders and officers to take part in a meeting with chief medical officer Chris Whitty on Monday to look at how to curb the rising rates of infection.

Warrington Guardian:

Chris Whitty

Similar restrictions to those introduced in the north east earlier this week, which include banning people from different households from meeting indoors in public settings, were discussed.

But some of the worst hit Merseyside councils want to go further – suggesting a mini-lockdown with Government compensating affected businesses for loss of earnings.

Cllr Bowden said: "I am not prepared to be dragged along with Merseyside.

"The solution is not the same.

"Any enhanced restrictions for Warrington need to be appropriate for Warrington. We are here to act in the best interests of Warrington residents.

"Any new restrictions need to be agreed with us."

Knowsley council leader Graham Morgan told the BBC: "Nobody wants to go back to a long-term lockdown like earlier this year, so the 'circuit breaker' option of a short lockdown, with clear rules, might disrupt the spread of the virus enough to help us regain some control."

A ban on people mixing indoors in households was agreed last week, the new restrictions could extend that to public settings such as pubs and restaurants – although the guidance is people don't mix in such ways.

READ MORE > Fall in number of new coronavirus cases in Warrington

Cllr Bowden says the council supported last week's changes in a bid to stop the rise in infections.

But he said a mini-lockdown would hit some businesses hard and he was not willing to let firms go out of businesses if there was no extra financial help offered.

"We supported the measures announced last week but I see no evidence that a two-week circuit break will help," he added.

"There will probably be other restrictions which can help.

Warrington Guardian: Cllr Russ Bowden

Cllr Russ Bowden

"And we continue to ask people to follow the rules, take responsibility, self-isolate where necessary and do your bit to help the town turn these figures around.

"We do need to thank residents for keeping our rates so low for so long. People have been doing their bit and acting responsibly."

Cllr Bowden also said that any extra restrictions need to look a wider public health, including children going to school.

"Public health is a far bigger issue than just coronavirus," he said.

"We know it is really important for children to be able to socialise in school. We saw the damage of the grading issues earlier this year.

"We risk doing more long term damage.

"The same for adults, it is not good for people to work at home for a long period or stay on furlough. From a public health point of view, we have to think about the right thing for society as a whole."

And he said the council needed to be involved with the Government on any decisions.

He added: “A big problem we have as a council is that we aren’t being told what the restriction changes will be until they are publicly announced. We need a constructive dialogue on what decision could be made in advance, with a chance for us to negotiate and find the right local solutions.

“Warrington isn’t part of some broad homogenous area, and it would be damaging for our town to have further restrictions, like a circuit break for example, imposed on us as part of a wider regional decision, unless we have the opportunity to discuss our needs directly with government first. We’ve heard suggestions about this two-week“circuit break in Merseyside – where the hospitality sector would close down, but schools and other workplaces would likely remain open – and I’ve got real concerns that it would cripple an already struggling hospitality sector and provide added uncertainty for many local jobs.

“Government edicts are making things really challenging for us. When they announce new measures on hospitality and curfews, for example, our enforcement officers are required to support the effort to ensure our premises are Covid-secure and are closing on time, at 10pm. But this huge surge in demand for our teams, without any extra funding or support for them, makes things extremely challenging. Any other measures or restrictions announced, absolutely need to be matched with the funding and resources we require.

“Councils across the country have been the front-line in the response throughout this pandemic, so I would urge the government to engage with us first before making any other decisions. Our local knowledge has proven invaluable throughout this challenging year and it is important that government acknowledges this local expertise.”