MP accuses Rochdale council of ‘trying to score political points’ in row over surge vaccinations

Date published: 16 June 2021

The Conservative MP for Heywood and Middleton has hit back at Rochdale Council after it slammed the government for failing to increase Covid vaccine supply to the borough.

Chris Clarkson accused the Labour-led authority of ‘trying to score political points’ rather than ‘working constructively’.

Rochdale – along with the rest of Greater Manchester – has been classed as an ‘enhanced response area’ due to rising infection rates, dominated by the ‘Delta’ variant.

A ‘strengthened government package’ has been promised, with extra support for surge testing, tracing and self-isolation.

Local leaders, led by Mayor Andy Burnham, have also called for vaccine supplies to be ‘brought forward’ to help drive down cases.

<p class='newslink'><span class='readmore'>Read more:</span> <a target='blank' href='/news-features/2/news-headlines/141460/government-urged-to-provide-additional-vaccines-to-tackle-delta-variant'><span class='newstitle'>Government urged to provide additional vaccines to tackle Delta variant</span><span class='dateonline'>Published: 15 June 2021</span></a></p>

However, ministers say they will continue to work through the age categories on a national basis – as per JCVI advice – rather than adopt a regional or geographical approach.

Responding to Rochdale MP Sir Tony Lloyd on Monday, health secretary Matt Hancock told Parliament that while he would ‘love to surge vaccinate the whole country’ but supply was the ‘rate-limiting factor’.

Rochdale councillor Daalat Ali, cabinet member for public health, said promises of a strengthened support in ‘enhanced response areas’ amounted to ‘peddling an empty slogan’ – and vowed to continue ‘making the case for additional vaccine supplies to be urgently provided’.

But Mr Clarkson – who became Heywood and Middleton’s first ever Conservative MP in 2019 – has issued a strong rebuke.

He said: “The government has committed to an enhanced support package and the support is coming.

 “The simple fact of the matter is that supply is the rate limiting factor – pretending otherwise is dangerous and dishonest. The government is delivering everything it has available.

“It’s incredibly frustrating and disappointing that, as always, Rochdale Borough Council tries to score political points instead of working constructively.”

Mr Clarkson added that he had not been contacted by Councillor Ali or any of his colleagues with a request to intervene on the council’s behalf.

“A serious councillor would have picked up the phone to local MPs, not the local newspapers,” he said.

Meanwhile Sir Tony Lloyd – MP for the neighbouring Rochdale constituency – said the government’s stance was ‘simply wrong’.

Speaking in the Commons this week, he said that the success of surge vaccinations in Bolton had shown the way forward – and people could not understand why the same approach was not being rolled out across Greater Manchester.

Sir Tony later told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It seems to be a statement to the obvious that it’s not simply in Greater Manchester’s interest, but in the nation’s interest that we have surge vaccines.

“Not just in Rochdale but across Greater Manchester, where the rate of the virus is growing rapidly. I raised this in Parliament with Matt Hancock this week, but the government seems to believe that the virus doesn’t matter as much in Greater Manchester as it does elsewhere.

“It is simply wrong.”

The Department for Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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