Mayor: Government must consult councils on easing lockdown measures
Ministers should not float significant changes to coronavirus lockdown restrictions – including relaxing planning and licensing rules – without speaking to the councils responsible for enforcing them, the Mayor has told the Government.
In a letter to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Mayor Philip Glanville wrote that centralised decisions that “bypass consultation with local residents” would lead to the wrong decisions for local communities.
The Government has suggested that plans to ‘fast-track’ outdoor food and drink trading, move planning decisions to a central government agency, and relax civic ceremony rules could be implemented as part of its easing of coronavirus restrictions.
In the letter, the Mayor wrote:
None of these measures were discussed in your department's call with Mayors, leaders and chief executives last Thursday. It has become an extremely worrying trend throughout the coronavirus pandemic that the views of local authorities and councillors – who know their communities and local needs best – are disregarded by this Government.
I want to be clear that any attempt to ride roughshod over the views of our residents and businesses will be unacceptable. Decisions made in Whitehall – and trailed in the weekend papers – will not bring our country together and bridge the inequality gap that this pandemic has exposed.
Done badly, and without sufficient notice, they also risk the infection rate rising again, more pressure on finate public space, the commercialisation of the space that we do have – whether it is our streets or parks – and then a linked rise in community tensions. Already councils have imperfect powers to regulate these competing demands, without having those that we do have being removed by the Government.
It has been widely recognised that earlier, greater input from councils’ public health teams would have led to a better, quicker and functioning NHS Test and Trace service. I would urge you not to make the same mistake again as you seek to restart the economy and ease restrictions in the coming months.
Local councils stand ready to support the Government’s efforts to safely reopen the economy in a collaborative, transparent way. I look forward to your department setting out how it will engage and consult with London Councils and the Local Government Association, and also directly with local authorities like Hackney before any decisions are made.