Nobody should underestimate the difficulty and size of the task that has faced the Government in tackling the coronavirus crisis, or doubt that ministers have had the best of intentions in their response.
But two months into lockdown, what is increasingly obvious is that an overly centralised response has hindered effective mitigation of the crisis. Many simply don’t understand why ministers have not looked to local government for solutions.
“An overly centralised response has hindered effective mitigation of the crisis”
From PPE supply to shielding, and from testing to business support, councils have shown they have a better understanding of how their local communities function.
A ‘one size fits all’ national approach is also not helpful, as coronavirus has not impacted the public in a uniform way, with ‘R’ rates now clearly different in different parts of the country.
A collaborative approach could still lead to better protection of communities. In particular, it is vital that an effective local testing and contact-tracing system is put in place as a matter of urgency.
Councils are best placed to lead on this. We have experienced teams of experts trained in contact tracing available in our public health services who have the skills needed to get the system working quickly at a local level, and we already have the vital local relationships needed to engage with all stakeholders and residents effectively.
I hope the Government learns from past mistakes and does not impose a top-down approach. I’m convinced that by working together, councils can save lives and drive down the infection rate in every community across our country.