Derbyshire council defends leader accused of ‘blatantly disregarding’ Covid-19 rules at photo shoot
A Derbyshire council has hit back after its leader was accused of ‘blatantly disregarding’ Covid-19 rules.
Councillor Steve Fritchley, leader of Bolsover District Council, was recently pictured standing next to an elderly woman at the official launch of a new community shop at the Brook Centre in Shirebrook.
A council spokesperson said: “The official opening was conducted by the Brook Centre and the council was invited along as participants to celebrate this worthwhile project.
“The lady in the centre of the photograph who was officially opening the store became very unsteady on her feet and required the two people either side of her to support her while she was cutting the ribbon.
“Coun Fritchley was originally standing away from the other people for the photo but as it became clear the elderly lady needed assistance he stepped in to prevent her from falling.
“As he was required to act quickly, Coun Fritchley did not have time to put his face covering on.
“As a council we fully support and promote all Covid-19 measures that have been put into place and the participants at the event wore a mask at all other times, unless exempt.”
A member of the public contacted the Derbyshire Times, saying: “Coun Fritchley has blatantly disregarded Covid-19 guidance.
“No face coverings, no social distancing, standing next to a clearly frail and vulnerable resident.
“As a leader of the council and a person with significant influence on the behaviours of others, he should be leading from the front and reinforcing essential public health messages.
“This is wholly unacceptable and a serious failure of leadership.
"Parts of Bolsover district have seen staggeringly high infection levels, making public health messaging really important in terms of influencing behaviours.”
Grants worth £33,000 mean the Brook Centre has been allowed the transition from a food bank to a community shop.
The shop will operate a scheme where, for a £5 minimum membership, folk can obtain a large bag of food of their choice on site each week for a minimum donation of £5.
Coun Fritchley said: “This is a great community project and one that we are delighted to have been able to support with both grants and advice."