FEARS have been raised over the amount of personal debt owed by residents and future employment prospects as attention turns to the end of lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the roadmap out of lockdown in the House of Commons on Monday.

The four-stage plan could see England’s coronavirus restrictions lifted by June 21.

Steve Cullen, chief officer of Citizens Advice Warrington, welcomed the announcement from Mr Johnson.

He said: “Each stage will be subject to four tests and this cautious approach is broadly welcomed.

“A successful vaccine programme, running alongside rapid testing, will hopefully relieve the immense burdens placed on our health and social care system.

“Like most agencies, Citizens Advice suspended face to face services in all but the most urgent and exceptional cases.

“We have been incredibly busy in dealing with cases by telephone, e-mail and web chat.

“Clients can also be interviewed using technology like Zoom, Microsoft teams and Attend Anywhere.

“We invested in technology to ensure staff and volunteers can work from home. We have also had a core team working in the Gateway to ensure the building remained open for key services and vulnerable adults.”

However, Mr Cullen expressed serious fears over the difficulties facing people across the borough.

He added: “Sadly, many residents have been affected by the pandemic in so many ways.

“I can say that we have seen many new clients who perhaps never thought that they would need our help, regarding family and relationship issues, universal credit, employment and housing.

“We look forward to getting back to some sort of normality later this year. Like many partners we are concerned about the enormous amount of personal debt that is owed, future employment prospects, housing and homelessness and mental health issues.

“There is no doubt that the voluntary and community and faith sector has provided magnificent support, and a safety net during the pandemic.

“This has been recognised by our statutory partners including the council and the NHS.

“There is no doubt that we must work closely together for the foreseeable future, to support our community and to strengthen the resilience of the proud people of Warrington.”

Cllr Bob Barr, leader of the town’s Liberal Democrats, says the roadmap announced by the Prime Minister is ‘sketchy’ at best.

He said: “Maps need a scale, in this case a timeline for various relaxations of the lockdown rules. 

“However, the dates, the mile posts in the road map, are elastic. The dates suggested are the earliest that changes will take place.

“If the data on the prevalence, the spread and the demand for hospital beds changes these dates will have to change too. 

“Many questions are unanswered. What support will those already finding it difficult to feed themselves receive? How much longer will business support last and what help will the newly unemployed get?

“When will people be able to plan travel and under what conditions? How will the May elections be held safely, effectively and fairly?

“A little hope, and a safety first message are welcome. But, Warrington residents and businesses will need a lot more detail to know what getting back to ‘normal’ will look like and how long it will take.”