LIBERAL Democrat councillors across Oxfordshire have said there is no need for people to grass up their neighbours for breaking Covid restrictions.

A joint letter from the Lib Dem group leaders of all the district councils in Oxfordshire said the call for people to report on their neighbours for breaking lockdown rules made them ‘distinctly uneasy’.

Their letter said: “It has the potential to encourage division and exacerbate discrimination within our communities. This suggests that we as a democratic and civil society cannot be trusted to do the right thing.”

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The letter is signed by several council leaders in charge of local responses in their areas of Oxfordshire, including Emily Smith, the leader at Vale of White Horse District Council, and Maggie Filipova-Rivers – deputy leader on South Oxfordshire District Council.

Joining them are Lib Dem opposition leaders Andy Graham of West Oxfordshire District Council, Katherine Tyson of Cherwell District Council and Andrew Gant of Oxford City Council.

The councillors said the encouragement could result in ‘community spying’ and instead pleaded for Oxfordshire residents to continue social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands.

The letter follows on the heels of a statement from Oxford City Council, which advised people that they could email if they saw neighbours breaking certain of the rules.

READ AGAIN: How to report people breaking lockdown rules in Oxfordshire

Other political groups have not taken the same stance.

Green city councillor Craig Simmons said the Lib Dems' message was ‘misguided and unhelpful’.

He added: “We all need to take personal and collective responsibility for complying with Covid rules and that may involve having a gentle word with your neighbours, work colleagues and local businesses. And, if that is not effective and they continue to ignore the law and putting others at risk, then it is perfectly reasonable to report their behaviour.”

Michelle Mead, the Conservative leader of West Oxfordshire District Council, and TOry group leaders Jane Murphy (SODC) and Simon Howell (Vale) also said enforcement was an important part of the rules.

A statement from them said: "We consider the position taken by this collective group appalling. Councils have a duty to help enforce rule breaches and keep residents safe.

"At a time of such a national challenge our duty as appointed representatives is to protect residents and help compliance.

"What is more important and something that we should all be doing and shouting from the rooftops is to HELP people. If there is non-compliance we all have a duty to help with either a quiet word due to a possible mistake or mis-understanding through to reporting persistent non-compliance as ultimately it is for the collective good of the community. Positive messaging and encouragement works to a point, when it does not work then action needs to be taken, no ifs or buts."

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In September last year, Home Secretary Priti Patel was asked about whether she would report her own neighbours for breaking Covid rules. She said she would.

At the time, the ‘rule of six’ coronavirus restrictions had been recently introduced, and she also suggested that families stopping to talk in the street could be breaking the new laws.

Just this month, Derbyshire Police have withdrawn fines handed out to two women who had driven five miles to undertake a walk as part of their daily exercise.

And 10 Downing Street has denied Boris Johnson broke the rules when he was discovered cycling seven miles away from his home.

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