Political row erupts as lockdown measures introduced in Sandwell
A row has erupted between a council leader and an MP as lockdown restrictions were to be brought into force in a Black Country borough.
Sandwell residents will be banned from mixing with other households tomorrow after the borough became area of national intervention amid a rise in coronavirus cases.
But West Bromwich West MP Shaun Bailey branded the Government's measures unnecessary because he said the coronavirus rate in his part of Sandwell is "well below" the borough's average.
He added: "I will be lobbying hard for the measures to be reviewed for Oldbury, Wednesbury and Tipton."
Mr Bailey also accused Sandwell Council of a lack of engagement with local MPs over the lockdown measures.
But Labour-run Sandwell Council's interim leader, Maria Crompton, hit back at Mr Bailey's comments accusing him of "misleading residents" and "undermining" the Secretary of State, Matt Hancock.
Figures published on Monday showed Smethwick and West Bromwich had the highest infection rates in Sandwell, with 89 and 75 cases per 100,000 people respectively.
In comparison, Tipton had a rate of 58 per 100,000, Oldbury had 50 per 100,000, Wednesbury had 48 and Rowley Regis had 25. The average infection rate in Sandwell is 60 cases per 100,000 people.
In an official letter addressed to Sandwell Council and Councillor Crompton on Friday, Mr Bailey, of the Conservatives, encouraged residents to be vigilant and abide by the measures.
But he said: "I have been disappointed with the lack of engagement from Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, who have painted a picture of increasing and decreasing infection rates that needed to be monitored but something that was under control and that did not risk the need for national intervention.
"I am disappointed with the decision which has been taken and the failures which have seen us get to this point."
But Councillor Crompton, also a Tividale ward councillor, hit back strongly in an official letter to Mr Bailey on Monday.
She said: "I find it unacceptable that Shaun Bailey MP could deliberately mislead Sandwell residents regarding our management of the Covid-19 pandemic. And to say we have not engaged with the MPs is totally untrue.
"The only thing Shaun Bailey has achieved with his letter is to cause confusion and added stress to both the public and our ever-hardworking-staff."
Councillor Crumpton cited how Sandwell launched its own test and trace system earlier in the pandemic to address "failings within the Government's system".
"If Mr Bailey really wants to help local people maybe it would be more helpful if he concentrated on his efforts on getting the Government to address the shortcomings in the national testing programme which are causing local people a lot of disruption and anxiety," she continued.
She added: "It was the Government that decided to apply restrictions to all of Sandwell. The council had no say in the matter. Mr Bailey is disagreeing with, and undermining, the Secretary of State's decision."
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