LEADERS across Middlesbrough and Hartlepool have slammed the government’s decision to tighten coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced yesterday morning that Middlesbrough and Hartlepool would become subject to the same laws as other parts of the North East.

Reacting to the news in a Facebook post Mayor of Middlesbrough Andy Preston, said: “Right now I do not accept the government’s intended restrictions because they are based on ignorance.”

In a video uploaded to his social media channels, he said: “I have to tell you I think this measure has been introduced based on factual inaccuracies and a monstrous and frightening lack of communication and ignorance. I don’t accept the statement at all.

“I don’t accept the measures, we need to talk to the government. They need to understand our local knowledge, expertise and ability to get things done and preserve jobs and well-being.

“We’re really disappointed as things stand we defy the government and we do not accept these measures. We need to get Covid under control and we need to work with people to find a way of preserving jobs and mental health.”

Councillor Shane Moore, Leader of Hartlepool Council, said: “What’s extremely disappointing is that our request to the Government was simple because statistics show that 80% of new cases are the result of household visits.

“We made a clear request to have household visits restricted for the time being until we are able to get this situation under control – it really was that simple and clear.

“What’s come back is a ban not only on household visits but also on visits to any social setting with anybody you know, so that means you can’t, for example, go to a COVID-secure pub, café or restaurant with family of friends.

“This will have a seriously detrimental effect on people’s mental health and also have a devastating impact on local businesses, and we would urge ministers to think again.”

Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: “Earlier in the week I spoke in the House of Commons to call for a clear exit strategy to be included in any local lockdown in Middlesbrough.

“I would like to personally thank Mr Hancock for ensuring that a clear, evidence-led exit strategy has been included in the measures imposed on Middlesbrough.

“I was clear in my opposition to any further local restrictions at this time, especially seen as the latest national restrictions had not had even a week to bed in.

“And while I respectfully disagreed with the decision of Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston to request a local lockdown in Middlesbrough, I am in no doubt that he acted in good faith in making this request of the Government.

“So now we are where we are, our focus must shift to protecting the most vulnerable members of our society.

“It is vital that we work alongside each other to ensure the best possible outcome for the people of Middlesbrough and ensure restrictions are in place for only as long as absolutely necessary.”

Councillor Bob Cook, Leader of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council, said: “We are not asking for further restrictions at this stage, but we will continue to carefully monitor the data and guidance provided by our Public Health team over the coming days and weeks.”

Jessie Joe Jacobs, Labour candidate for Tees Valley Mayor, said: "The government have failed the people of the Tees Valley, with their contradictions and mismanagement of this crisis. We’ve had a failure in testing, failure in track and trace, one rule for them and another for others; the public have lost all confidence.

"We have to keep people safe, that is our number one priority and we must get the rates back down to avoid any further loss of life but I’m honestly gutted for our communities that we have to go through even further stress and turmoil.

"We are going back into a situation where grandparents don’t know if they can see their grandkids and restaurants and pubs face closure, furlough is coming to the end and thousand of jobs are at risk in the Tees Valley."

Peter Gibson MP for Darlington said: "Darlington remains unaffected by these additional restrictions BUT we remain under close watch.

"We have worked hard to keep things under control here, we have seen some increases in infections in Darlington but not at a level that would mean we have to go into extra restrictions yet.

"As our economy is only just recovering, we need to avoid lockdown in Darlington, it is all of our control. I want us to avoid lockdown in our town and I pay tribute to everyone who has worked so hard to keep us safe."