VISITORS could be turned away, businesses might be forced to close and people’s contact with others could be limited if a local lockdown goes ahead.

The leader of Brighton and Hove City Council today lays out how she could make such powers work in a bid to protect public health.

Councillor Nancy Platts is calling on the Government to grant the council powers to lock down the city after thousands of people swarmed to the seafront at the weekend.

In chaotic scenes, drunken people urinated in front of children and city chiefs claimed social distancing was impossible.

Asked what form a local lockdown might take, Cllr Platts told The Argus: “We might have to put measures in place not allowing people to come into the city, to not mingle in large groups or with other households.

The Argus:

“If we had a second wave of infection for example, we might want the power to say visitors couldn’t come here for another couple of weeks.

“We don’t have any jurisdiction of the railway stations so we are unable to restrict numbers.

“We don’t have the powers, so this does depend on the Government.

“This has the biggest impact so we don’t know whether this could be included within the framework.

“So a local lockdown might be able to place restrictions on the number of people coming into the city every day.

“Bars and cafes can’t be closed without these powers and we would need the funding to compensate these businesses.”

The Argus:

The Argus asked Cllr Platts whether the local measures could extend to rolling back on the current easing of lockdown, such as the ability for people to meet up with others in different households.

She said: “I guess there’s a potential to do that – the first principle is to keep people apart.

“If we found out about community outbreaks in a particular part, we might want to put measures in place.

The Argus:

“It would be a great shame as people in the city have worked so hard to restrict the spread so what we don’t want to do now is to go back.”

The council says the call for new local lockdown powers comes after concerns from city residents.

Cllr Platts said, if granted, they would only be used after consultation with the director of public health and blue-light services, including the NHS.

The Argus:

It follows concerns about how effective the Government’s track-and-trace system will be in tourist destinations.

People who have been in close contact with someone found to have coronavirus are now being traced and will be told to self-isolate for a fortnight.

Cllr Platts said: “I think the Government needs to think through what lifting lockdown means for tourism areas like Brighton and Hove. We have a constant shift in people in and out in the city every day, which we expect to continue if the weather remains as it is.

“We don’t know who’s coming in and out of the city and they will not know who they’re coming into contact with.

“We want to keep people safe, we want to have a slow and steady progression out of lockdown and we don’t want to have a second wave.”

The Argus:

Cllr Platts said the measures would be used “proportionately” to safeguard public health and could be informed based on track-and-trace data.

The council does not currently have the track-and-trace data from the Government, Cllr Platts added.

As reported on Friday, analysis comparing Government data on the number of cases in the city over a two-week basis has suggested the virus might be on the rise once again in the area.

All these proposals for local lockdown are subject to a consultation with central Government.

The Argus:

Critics have said the council should close off the beach, or limit car parking in a bid to deter visitors before asking for more powers.

Cllr Platts said: “There is a possibility that we could close the beach at the moment, but this is expensive to marshal and pay for barrier costs and it would be difficult to enforce.

“To close car parks, we would need committee approval. We have always kept them open because people were allowed to go to spaces if the exercise was longer than the drive. There are also obviously disability accessibility issues.”

'Covid-19 is best understood as pattern of local outbreaks'

RESPONDING to the Government’s launch of the new NHS Test and Trace Service, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board Ian Hudspeth said: “Covid-19 is best understood as a pattern of local outbreaks, rather than a national pandemic with a similar impact in every community, which is why councils as local leaders have a fundamental role to play in the test and trace service.

The Argus:

"It is good Government has recognised the importance of directors of public health within councils, who need to have the necessary powers and authority to lead the response locally and tackle outbreaks early and aggressively.

“The success of the programme will also depend on the support and co-operation of the general public.

"We believe they would be reassured and encouraged if the roll-out of the service is underpinned by the leadership of their local council.”

A sledgehammer to crack a nut, Tories say

THE Tories say the city council’s requested lockdown powers are “excessive and unnecessary”.

Conservative group spokesman for health and wellbeing Samer Bagaeen said the council leader was asking for more powers “without having effectively used the powers and tools that she already has at her disposal”.

Cllr Bagaeen said. “What sort of powers does the council leader want that she doesn’t have already?”

The Argus:

“She already has the powers at her disposal to close beaches but has decided not to use them, making excuses and saying it is too hard, despite this having been easily done elsewhere in the world.

“She is the council leader and has a workforce of hundreds at her disposal that she could use if she wanted.

“The council leader should consider effectively using the powers and tools she already has and work harder to solve the issues at beaches before asking for more.

“Central Government cannot create a patchwork of laws, with discrepancies from town to town and city to city.

“We as the local authority have powers in a substantial toolbox and the question is whether we call on them correctly.

“There are many levers the council can use and some of these include sealing off the seafront, either with fences like they do at Pride or with police tape and station marshals at various points.

The Argus:

“The council had previously discounted doing this when it was suggested to them.

“The council had also discounted disabling the parking bays along King’s Road and Marine Parade to stop visitors parking by the seafront.

“Banning visitors from entering the city will mean police patrols checking cars and speaking to visitors at various points on the road network which will cause chaos.

“It will also be bad for those businesses still operating and the last thing council wants to do is take a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”