Coronavirus: ‘It will be our leadership, resolve and ability to beat this problem one family at a time one street at a time’ council leaders told as they’re called to play crucial role

PUBLISHED: 17:26 18 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:26 18 March 2020

The Government is to announce sweeping new measures involving councils such as Fenland and East Cambridgeshire in the battle against coronavirus. . Picture: HARRY RUTTER

The Government is to announce sweeping new measures involving councils such as Fenland and East Cambridgeshire in the battle against coronavirus. . Picture: HARRY RUTTER

HARRY RUTTER

Both Fenland and East Cambridgeshire District Council will be offered a blank cheque by the Government in a bid to mitigate the worst effects of coronavirus locally.

Local council leaders from across the country met in Downing Street today and were told by prime minister Boris Johnson of the crucial role about to be played by local government.

District councils’ network leader Cllr John Fuller of Norfolk said the prime minister was emphatic about the role to be played by local councils.

“Just as the government says it will do what it takes to beat this crisis, the prime minister made it clear that local government had to do what it takes.

“He said he will back us to be creative, to be inventive and to provide the energy needed to beat this crisis in every street in our country.

Cllr Fuller explained that the plan will be directed locally by a named individual in the local resilience forum but with district councils responsible for the ‘last mile’.

“If deaths are to be minimised, the NHS must be able to cope and local government must help enormously in achieving that objective,” said Cllr Fuller.

“It is the crucial mission and success looks like many fewer lives will be lost and the economy will be more able to bounce back.”

He said there was a three-point plan with local councils at its heart.

Firstly over 30,000 people in acute beds in hospital need to be helped to leave hospital immediately and local government has a has a key role in achieving that.

Secondly, he said that NHS professionals and GPs are currently finalising a list of about 1.4 million people in shielded need. This health professional certified list will be provided to council leaders later in the week.

“But we must start to plan now,” said Cllr Fuller,

“It is essential that councils focus particularly on the needs and well-being of that shielded cohort. “These are people who may be pregnant, over 70 or have other debilitating diseases. We will be given that list of people by the NHS. Our job will be to ensure that their needs are prioritised above others”.

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He said that thirdly there are those other people who may be self-isolating, in need, or vulnerable for other reasons but aren’t in the critical cohort of 1.4 million.

“In county areas district councils will be expected to set up ‘hubs’ to coordinate volunteer efforts,” said Cllr Fuller.

“The Prime Minister expects councils to be swift in decision-making and to follow the guidance given by the Chief Medical Officer.

“In return he said, ‘I will back you to make sure you get what you need not just for social care but for everything’”.

Cllr Fuller said that health secretary Matt Hancock explained there will be no room for arguments between councils and the health service.

“The local resilience forum will have a named officer whose job it will be to provide the absolute leadership and focus in an area.

“This named officer will be identified to the Prime Minister by 9:15 on Friday. They will be the sole arbiter of what needs to be done.

“We have a responsibility to respond to his/her direction when it comes to local decision making. “There will be no room for questioning. This is the Prime Minister’s decision, taken in front of us in the meeting.”

Cllr Fuller said: “Schools remain open for the moment but when the order is given for them to close local government will be expected to assist with the childcare responsibilities of key workers. “The definition of key workers will be determined in the next day or so.

“Local authorities running local hubs will have the benefit of military planners, logistics experts as well as volunteers.

“There will be no GDPR restrictions over data transfers between Government, the NHS and councils. The law will be changed to make it clear that the public interest outweighs privacy concerns at this time.”

Other measures could include the NHS buying up hotel capacity for convalescence, said Cllr Fuller,

“All care homes will be receiving a package of protective equipment over the next few days and there will be capabilities to have emergency top ups as well,” he added.

“This is a mission. A national mission. Delivered locally.

“This is our time. It is why we stood for election. It’s why our officials signed up for the job. And it will be our leadership, resolve and ability to beat this problem one family at a time one street at a time one place at a time.”


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