Sunderland council leader slams Dominic Cummings over lockdown drive to Durham

The leader of Sunderland City Council has hit out at Boris Johnson over the Government’s handling of the Dominic Cummings row, saying it has undermined ‘the most important public health message in living memory’.

Coun Graeme Miller has criticised Downing Street’s decision to support its most senior advisor his trip to County Durham during the coronavirus lockdown and fears it has given others ‘carte blanche’ to follow suit.

He said: “During the coronavirus pandemic, I have seen the most incredible acts of selflessness and sacrifice.

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“People in this city, putting themselves in harm’s way each and every day, to ensure others survive this dreadful illness; families, desperate to spend time together, but knowing the way to demonstrate how much they love each other is to remain apart.

Dominic Cummings leaves his north London home the day after he a gave press conference over allegations he breached coronavirus lockdown restrictions. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA Wire

“For most families in Sunderland, and indeed across the country, the sheer recklessness and selfishness of Dominic Cummings’ actions - carrying a deadly virus halfway across the country and flagrantly flouting rules he helped devise - will stick in their throat. And rightly so.

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“It is clear that neither Cummings nor the Prime Minister have the humility or decency to apologise for this woeful episode. Their strategy was to ride this media storm out - because they know that people will get bored of hearing about it all.

“Well, I hope people don’t get bored. I hope people remember the fact that so many have sacrificed so much, while Cummings has cavorted around with his family, with total distain for the rules and the way in which this nation has – for the most part – selflessly observed them, even in the most heart-breaking circumstances.”

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Coun Miller, who is also the leader of Sunderland Labour Group, also said he is concerned over reports of Seaburn and Roker beaches being busy over the weekend, amid fears social distancing was not always being observed.

He added: “It was deeply concerning to see our beaches so busy over the Bank Holiday weekend, and we understand that in some cases people were clearly not observing social distancing.

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“Sunderland’s people have so diligently stuck to the rules since lockdown was imposed – and that is to their credit. But there can be little doubt that the Government’s new messaging, ‘stay alert’ is so vague that it’s meaningless, and the cavalier attitude of Cummings has led to the erosion of trust in a vital public health message.

“That – as leader of this city – is my number one concern. We know that the R rate here is high, and the risk to the public is still very real.

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“Self-entitled Cummings has given so many people, exhausted by this lockdown, carte blanche to adapt the rules to suit themselves, and that is a terrible risk at a critical stage in the fight against this disease.

“I am asking residents to please, carry on looking out for others and do not follow the actions of Cummings.

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“If anyone was in any doubt about the contempt this Government holds average people in, then the mask has slipped - there simply cannot be any doubt now. This is a Government that thinks it is above everyone else - that sneers at rules it created while watching everyone else abide by them.

“I sincerely hope that the absolutely indefensible and frankly stupid behaviour of Cummings and the Prime Minister in supporting his advisor does not detract from the efforts of the nation, and that people continue to protect each other.

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“That is the only way we can overcome this deadly virus.”