Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 29 May 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

29 May 2020


Greetings colleagues,

Test and Trace – hunting the virus

I hope you and yours are well and able to make the best of working from home in this tenth week of lockdown (more for some members). This week the government has given £300m to councils to assist with the test and trace work, putting councils at the heart of the recovery, working with the NHS. Lessons from the Isle of Wight include how resource-heavy tracing can be. Success also relies on people accepting a two week isolation, even with no symptoms and thus no test. For some people, this isolation will also be with no income. Breaking the isolation, comes with a fine of up to £1,000. Councils will have the power to close places where the disease is spreading too fast. We have pointed out that testing will need to speed up if it is to be useful.

Councils have the expertise and are ready to help stop the spread of the disease. Council services already at the heart of tackling the pandemic are emergency planners in resilience forums, environmental health, trading standards and public health including sexual health services and infection control nurses. It’s in our day job.

Getting back to work - transport

Two of the big challenges in getting people back to work is schools, starting after this half term week, and the use of public transport. With two metre distancing, the capacity reduces to 15 per cent. It might be that wearing masks can bring the distancing down to say, one metre, which is what the World Health Organisation are recommending for all countries. My local communities here are doing an amazing job making masks which they either donate for essential workers or sell to neighbours to raise funds for local charities.

Based on the above, we are seeking to include the Ministers for Education and Business in our future LGA Group Leader meetings.

Local Focus for the LGA Independent Group

On Thursday, our LGA Independent Group successfully held the first in a series of online regional meetings, chaired by Sarah Rouse, Leader of Malvern Hills DC. With well over 30 participants signed up, and break-out groups that enabled an excellent discussion on the impact of COVID-19 on our communities and what we need to have in our recovery plans for a better future. More dates will follow, with an invite imminent for a North East, Yorkshire and Humber meeting on 16 June.

What happens to democracy in a time of crisis?

It is seven weeks since we were enabled to have virtual meetings and got cabinet and planning in progress. The balancing process of scrutiny, helping to develop policy and assess effectiveness of the council’s work, is an important part of hearing all the voices in order to make the right decisions for everyone. We are looking at how best to support a recovery to a better world, with strong community action, low impact on the environment and more focus on local economies. There is plenty to go at!

The Centre for Public Scrutiny have published some extremely useful guides in response to the challenges posed by coronavirus. They have also just circulated a survey to complete, gathering feedback on scrutiny during the COVID-19 pandemic. Please have a look and make sure your Council is engaged with them – there is a helpline as well as other help available.

There are also a lot of examples of good practice, including remote meetings and community engagement, on the LGA website and members in the group very happy to share what’s happening in their areas if you are experiencing issues.

Good luck in all you are doing.

Kind regards,

Councillor Marianne Overton MBE signature
Councillor Marianne Overton MBE

Councillor Marianne Overton MBE
Leader of the Independent Group
Vice Chair of the Local Government Association