I WAS intrigued to read a report by Warrington Guardian reporter David Morgan about the uptake and costs of the Eat Out to Help Out scheme in Warrington over the summer.

Around 337,000 meals were claimed for in the town, with the government stumping up a whopping £1.7million as its part of the deal.

A total of 131 restaurants, pubs, cafes and other eateries in the borough took Chancellor Rishi Sunak up on his incentive scheme to support the hospitality sector throughout August and a geographic breakdown of statistics also reveals an average of £13,400 was claimed per business with an average discount per meal of £5.22.

And the figures also show that much more of the meals were claimed in Warrington South, which includes the town centre.

Ah yes, just think back to those heady days of August when we could go on holiday, go to the pub and have the family round again as we celebrated the end of what we naively believed was going to be the one and only national lockdown we needed to get the pandemic under control.

It felt like it was our reward for being good when we were all basically locked up in our homes, taking the social distancing message so seriously.

I say we were all good at obeying the rules but of course not everyone followed them to the absolute letter – think the Dominic Cummings trip to Barnard Castle and the infamous Grappenhall VE Day street party conga line.

Anyway, Eat Out to Help Out was Sunak's initiative to boost the economy in general and the hospitality sector in particular after the first national lockdown by providing diners with a discount of up to 50 per cent on food and soft drinks on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays in August.

Any regular readers of this column won’t be surprised to hear I didn’t take up the offer. I couldn’t see the point of spending months and months protecting my health by social distancing just to suddenly risk it for the sake of a cheap burger and a pint of fizzy Euro lager.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m really looking forward to the days when I, too, can safely venture into an eatery for a burger (cheap or otherwise) and maybe an expensive craft beer or two.

But the emphasis is on ‘safely’.

The problem is the government has never got to grips with the fact you can’t have a healthy economy without having a healthy workforce. It’s not one or the other.

And that’s the lesson that maybe the government has finally learned after the debacle of Eat Out to Help Out.

Don’t believe me? Then perhaps you might possibly believe an actual expert such as Dr Thiemo Fetzer of the CAGE Research Centre in the economics department at the University of Warwick who analysed the impact of Eat Out to Help Out on Covid-19 infections.

Key findings are:

1 Participating restaurants saw an increase in visits of between 10 and 200 per cent compared to 2019.

2 Areas with a higher rate of uptake both from restaurants and customers experienced a sharp increase in the emergence of new Covid-19 infection clusters a week after the scheme began.

3 Between eight and 17 per cent of those infection clusters can be attributed to the scheme.

4 Areas with high uptake saw a decline in new infections a week after the scheme ended.

5 As the Eat Out to Help Out scheme ended, visits to restaurants started to decline – indicating that its positive economic impact was short-lived.

So it appears Eat Out to Help Out was nothing more than a dangerous, costly mistake. No surprise there given that dangerous, costly mistakes seems to be the government’s way of doing things.

Changing the subject, I was transfixed by the glorious Jackie Weaver’s appearance at the now-legendary Handforth Parish Council.

But problematic parish councils are nothing new to Warrington. Does anyone want to place a bet on how long it will be before Ms Weaver makes a Zoom appearance at Penketh’s. After all, Warrington Council chief executive Steven Broomhead tried and failed to sort them out a couple of months ago so maybe it’s time to bring in Jackie Weaver to see if she really does have the authority.