Council leader has no regrets over pre-lockdown ‘open for business’ comment

County Hall in Norwich. Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor (left) and opposition Labour le

County Hall in Norwich. Norfolk County Council leader Andrew Proctor (left) and opposition Labour leader Steve Morphew (right). Picture: Norfolk County Council/Neil Perry/Denise Bradley - Credit: Norfolk County Council/Neil Perr

The leader of Norfolk County Council has said he does not regret declaring the county “open for business” in the weeks leading up to the second lockdown.

Speaking ahead of the October half term, council leader Andrew Proctor said: ““I want to emphasise that Norfolk is very much open for business, It is half term and we expect people to come and visit us.

“We also expect families in the county to want to get out. It’s a message to everybody to get out and enjoy the county, but enjoy it safely.”

However, since this date the country has been plunged back into lockdown with infection rates growing across the nation - including in Norfolk.

At a full council meeting held on Monday, Labour group leader Steve Morphew asked Mr Proctor whether he regretted his choice of words at the time, given the increased number of cases recorded in the county since then.

Mr Morphew asked: “Does the leader have any regrets about declaring Norfolk open for business ahead of the half term holidays and subsequent increase in the rate of infection in certain parts of the county? Given the speed the inspection can spread what lessons did you learn in respect to prematurely asserting Norfolk should emerge into the lowest tier of restriction not knowing restrictions or the rates?”

But the leader said: “As far as the economy goes it has always been about striking the right balance between lives and livelihoods. I’m sure we all want Norfolk’s economy to be revitalised, it is full of small businesses who operate on low margins and they are dependent on certain times of the year to get the revenue they want to cover them for the whole year to survive.

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“From a business support point of view locally and nationally, there has been a lot of support putinto business, we want to work with them and they want to work with us. And so, it is not unreasonable to say at that time Norfolk was open for business, particularly as they are making so much effort to remain Covid safe.

“As there was more testing, more cases were bound to be found and I think it is far better to find them than not.

“What we need to be is optimistic, particularly when there are vaccines around the corner. We have learned a huge amount over a short period of time and this is a rapidly changing situation.”

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