COUNTY Council leader Geoff Driver has said it is 'inevitable' that Lancashire will be moved from coronavirus tier two restrictions to the highest tier three within days.

This would put the county at the same ‘very high’ local Covid alert level as the Liverpool city region forcing bars and pubs to close except where serving substantial meals.

It would escalate the current tier two ban on households mixing indoors to cover all outdoor places including gardens and shut leisure centres, betting shops and casinos.

Cllr Driver's gloomy prediction was backed by Blackburn with Darwen Council leader Cllr Mohammed Khan and his Hyndburn counterpart Cllr Miles Parkinson.

But Pendle council boss Cllr Mohammed Iqbal said that tier three restrictions would be wrong for his borough.

Cllr Driver spoke out this afternoon as senior officers from the county, Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool Councils negotiated with officials from the Department of Health and Social Care and 10 Downing Street advisers on the precise geography of any new Lancashire restrictions and the shape of a support package for businesses and workers hit by them.

These talks will continue tomorrow morning and, if a deal is struck, it could be ratified at the afternoon 'Gold' meeting of the Joint Biosecurity Committee before going to ministers later or the following morning.

Cllr Driver said last night: "I think it is inevitable that at least part of Lancashire will be moved into tier three.

"Our officials were in talks this afternoon and there will be more talks tomorrow and a meeting of Lancashire Council leaders when necessary.

"We are trying to negotiate the best support package possible for businesses that will close and for the new rules to cover the whole county.

“If you look at the figures for East Lancashire, the infection rates are very scary. I do not know when the new tier three restrictions would be announced or come into force, but I would like to see it as soon as possible.”

Cllr Khan said: "I would agree that tier three is inevitable We are trying to negotiate a support package for businesses and staff laid off. If we do not agree the government will just force it on us.

"With the right package, I would support the change short-term but they also need to look at schools and colleges."

Cllr Parkinson said: "With regards to inevitability, it is certainly looking that way. provided nobody is left behind, with a heavy heart I would support going into tier three."

Cllr Iqbal said: "It may be inevitable but I am certainly not in favour of going into tier three. It would be the wrong thing for Pendle."