This evening, Calderdale Council held their first-ever virtual Cabinet meeting – the first Council in West Yorkshire to do so. Labour councillor Tim Swift started the meeting with this summary of how Calderdale has responded so far, and some of the challenges ahead.
I would like to welcome you all to Calderdale Council’s first virtual Cabinet meeting, to those of you in the meeting, and all those of you watching on Youtube.
I am proud that Calderdale is the first Council in West Yorkshire to hold a Cabinet meeting since the impact of Covid19 took such a grip on all our lives.
When Cabinet last met on the 16 March, I said that we faced the greatest challenge from this pandemic since the Second World War. What I did not know at that point was that within less than six weeks we would see over 20,000 deaths in hospital, and many more in our community and social care settings.
I’m not always keen on these analogies, but to put that into context, in the height of the blitz in the Second World War, it took seven months for 40,000 civilians to lose their lives.
Each loss of life is a complete and utter tragedy. There will be a point in the future when the impact of the pandemic and decisions taken will need to be assessed and understood.
That point is not today.
Whilst we are seeing some modest reductions in those in hospital, suggesting we are achieving a flattening of the curve of impact, the pace of reduction is much slower than the rise of infection we saw in March and early April. Social distancing and staying at home has clearly had an impact, and their importance in battling this horrible disease continue for now.
At the last Cabinet meeting, we launched our ten point plan in response to Covid19. Many other Councils have learnt from this approach.
I am hugely proud of all the work our staff have done, the work of the wonderful NHS, other partners and especially our voluntary sector and indivdiaul volunteers and neighbours who yet again have risen to the challenge of supporting those most in need.
I do not intend to go through the plan in detail, it is updated weekly and put onto our website, but a few highlights do include that we have:
- Paid almost 3,700 business grants totalling almost £42 million to local businesses
- Delivered over 115,000 items of PPE to our social care providers
- Supported 1,975 people who have asked for help through our staff and volunteers
- Recruited 836 volunteers to work alongside us, helping those who need our support
We believe that local government has proven its value, its skill, its kindness and quiet determination. We are the part of government that understands our local place and again and again delivers.
It is good news that our Prime Minister has recovered from the impact of Covid19, and is back leading his government. I wrote to him recently wishing him well.
We all hope we will now see leadership and progress from our Government in key areas, such as PPE, and clarity on the plans for the lifting of lockdown when appropriate, as has been set out in other countries and by the Scottish Government last week.
Our communities have been brilliant in responding to the huge restrictions on their lives, but they need clarity, leadership and a sense of hope from their Government.
Sadly, what they have mainly had in recent weeks is Ministers just repeating the latest 3 word slogan, an inadequate response in the middle of the greatest crisis most of us have ever known.
We need our Prime Minister to seize the day, as we will need a sense of our common future just like at the end of the Second World War, when the Beveridge Report led to the creation of the NHS and the Welfare State.
And a new future for public services is required.
As a Council, we have begun our work on recovery, and what we see as the reset to the new normal, as we both live with Covid19 over coming months, but also how we may change the way we live our lives long term.
We want to have that conversation with people across Calderdale and have it shaped by you, tapping into the talent and spirit of enterprise which is core to our vision and that makes us Calderdale.
Let’s start that conversation soon.