However, Mr Preston claimed the Government had “not engaged with us on any level at any point”.
“They seem to be doing something to us without regard for our local expertise,” he said. “As things stand, there is a speech that everyone is latching onto and none of us know what it means, but people are suggesting to us it means a Tyne and Wear lockdown which is for, Middlesbrough, unnecessary.”
He said local authorities were willing to work with the Government to “deliver a better, more intelligent, more compassionate, more pragmatic plan” or risk the people of the North-East suffering from “isolation, desperation and depression”, warning that the measures would “literally get rid of thousands of jobs” and “push people with poor mental health over the edge”.
On Thursday night the people of Middlesbrough also seemed set to defy the new laws. Liam Watson, 24, said: “There’s no way people are going to stay at home and not go to the pub when you’ve got the Mayor saying ‘defy the ban’.
“He’s sticking up for people and trying to stop businesses going bust and, if it comes down to it, I’d rather listen to our local leader than some muppet at Westminster. They don’t know anything about us.”
But Craig Kevin, a 47-year-old food market trader who runs a stall in the town centre, accused the Mayor of “adding to the confusion” over the rules, saying “people will just decide to carry on as normal because they don’t actually believe any of them”.
“Boris Johnson didn’t even know the rules as they apply to the North-East when he was asked the other day, so what chance do the public have, especially when national and local Government are saying different things?” he asked.