May 1, 2020
We – the whole world – are at the beginning of two crises: a life-or death-health crisis and an economic crisis.
Even though these crises are global, it’s down to local people and politicians to make sure we have a safe and prosperous future.
Middlesbrough Council responded incredibly quickly to news that this virus was spreading fast. Within days we’d created action plans, helplines and distribution centres to make sure vulnerable people could get food, medicine and any other support they need.
For economic survival, Middlesbrough showed the way by handing out grant aid to businesses – issuing millions of pounds worth of aid before the Government money to fund this had arrived.
Our economy is important but lives are much more valuable.
When we realised that we were going to be more COVID-19 infected than almost everywhere else we closed our parks. This hasn’t been a popular decision – either with local politicians or national Government. I’ve had to go on national television and defend our defiance of national government direction to open the parks – that was tough. But closing them was right.
As I write this, Middlesbrough is, including all London boroughs, the tenth most COVID-19 infected place in the entire country so our public parks will remain closed until we’re sure we can open them safely.
Getting fresh air for physical and mental well- being is important. Thankfully, Middlesbrough’s got many alternative green spaces that don’t encourage people to gather, socialise and loiter in the way that public parks do.
We are in a crisis that isn’t going away soon. In Middlesbrough, we’re fighting hard to preserve lives and jobs.
Mayor of Middlesbrough