A LEGAL challenge has been launched by Stratford District Council against the government’s decision to put the district into Tier 3.
The district council has sent a judicial review pre-action protocol letter to The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
The county, which pre-lockdown was in Tier 1, was left reeling last week following the announcement it would be placed in Tier 3 from today (Wednesday).
Of the 30 local authorities in the West Midlands, only Malvern Hills, in Worcestershire, which is in Tier 2, had a lower rate than Stratford district. Meanwhile Redditch Borough Council, which shares a border with the district, has been placed in Tier 2 despite a seven day average case rate of 298 in 100,000 – almost three times the rate for Stratford district.
Recent figures show the seven day average of cases in 100,000 in the district was last week 83, and on Monday had dropped to 73.
In neighbouring Warwick the number was 209.4, and 264 in Rugby.
The council is demanding government retracts the decision to put Stratford district into Tier 3 and move it into a lower tier or take necessary steps to withdraw or amend the relevant regulations.
District council leader Tony 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.
“There is widespread feeling of disbelief and anger locally at Stratford district being in Tier 3. Our hospitality businesses are devastated by the news. 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.”
Warwick District Council leader Andrew Day is backing the move. He said: “I wholeheartedly support the decisive action taken by our neighbours over in Stratford-on-Avon to commence a judicial review against the government’s Tier 3 directive. The government should not be taking a broad brush approach with the Tier system, which will be detrimental to the South Warwickshire local economy and instead, recognising the facts on a local level. With the backing of our local MP, Jeremy Wright, I will watch with interest the outcome of the Westminster debate.”
Stratford MP Nadhim Zahawi, who has been appointed vaccine rollout minister, said he was pushing the Department of Health and Social Care to ensure Warwickshire would be considered separately from Coventry and Solihull in future decisions about restrictions in the county.