NORTHUMBRIA'S Police and Crime Commissioner has accused the Prime Minister "rushing" the relaxation of lockdown rules.

Kim McGuinness felt the changes, which will allow up to six people to meet outdoors from Monday, was pushed forward to help ministers in a difficult position.

She feared that the announcement, which was made just before a hot and sunny weekend, could result in difficult days for the authorities.

Downing Street has warned the public that socially-distanced, six-people meet-ups remain prohibited in England until Monday.

Northumbria's Labour Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness said: "One of the hallmarks of the Government's handling of this deadly pandemic has sadly been a series of mistimed and badly explained messages.

"By pre-announcing changes to lockdown ahead of a tempting weekend of sunshine, the PM must have known he was going to create a situation that is difficult to police.

"The messaging looks like it was rushed forward to help ministers in a difficult position.

"When our country eventually gets through this and the inevitable inquiry into the Government's handling takes place, the communications plan, or the lack of, will have to be part of that.

"My message to people is to follow the latest guidelines, avoid large groups and be patient as we seek to reduce the R number and slow the spread of this deadly virus."

The relaxation of the lockdown came in the wake of intense scrutiny on Boris Johnson's government following Dominic Cummings' alleged breach of lockdown.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "We've said that wherever possible we would give a period of notice in advance of changes being made, ideally 48 hours or more, which is true in this respect.

"The current regulations are in force until Monday."