THE mayor of Luton has been pictured flouting lockdown rules by attending a party of TWELVE – just days before coronavirus cases surged in town.
Tahir Malik and two other councillors were forced to apologise after the photographs of them at the garden party were shared online.
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The event was held on July 21 – just days before Luton and Blackburn were named as ‘areas of intervention’ due to rising numbers of coronavirus cases.
Both are now at the same level as Leicester which was subject to the UK’s first full local lockdown last month.
Councillors Waheed Akbar and Asif Masood were also pictured at the back yard, with the photograph showing Mayor Malik’s face covering dangling underneath his chin.
None of the other attendees were wearing masks for the gathering.
According to government guidelines – which have been in place since June 1 – a maximum of six people can meet outdoors providing they remain two metres apart or one metre with a face covering.
The Labour councillors released an apology to Luton Today, saying: “We apologise unreservedly to the people of Luton for our breach of the lockdown rules.
“We attended what we believed was going to be a small socially distanced gathering, in line with the government guidelines.
“During the course of the event, the arrival of additional guests meant the rules were breached.
“We should have left immediately, and it is a matter of sincere regret for each of us that we did not do so.
“It is all of our responsibility to follow the guidelines. We are sorry that we did not live up to the standards that are rightly expected of us.”
The eastern branch of the Labour Party confirmed it was investigating.
In a statement, a spokesperson said: “It is essential that everybody follows social distancing measures in order to protect the public from Covid-19. It is even more important for those in positions of authority to be setting the right example.
“The Labour Party investigates all complaints received and where rules have been breached, action will be taken in line with the Labour Party’s processes.”
Luton Borough Council also said it had received complaints, saying: “The council has received complaints concerning the alleged conduct of three councillors.
“We take all such complaints extremely seriously and an investigation into their alleged behaviour will be started and a decision arrived at.’
It is not yet known when a formal decision may be made on restrictions in Luton.
A spike of cases in Blackburn earlier this month was blamed on a mass breach of social distancing rules at a funeral attended by 250 people.
The imam who led prayers at the Jamia Ghosia Mosque in the town tested positive following the funeral on July 13.
The service breached rules that cap the number of attendees at 30.