Covid: Knowing our place

We should all be thankful that here in Fareham we are one of the Local Authorities least affected by Covid-19.

Leicester’s latest local lockdown, however, raises key questions for all Local Authorities and their communities.

It is now abundantly clear that Leicester’s local management was not fully aware of its Covid-19 crisis. Central government had a rough idea that there was a problem but didn’t share the data or act on it quickly.

But would our Local Authority have managed any better? How well do we know our place? Fareham’s Borough Council is surely not a mere agency of the national Head Office – or at least we would hope not. For who can trust the current competence of Head Office?

Here in Fareham, we and all our residents and local employees need to know that our Local Authority is totally on top of the metrics. And the only way that we will know that is by openly publishing critical up-to-date information.

We should, at least, know the answers to seven basic questions:

  • Is our local population infection rate under control?
  • Is our local healthcare system capacity sufficient?
  • Do we have sufficient local testing and contact tracing, and is the system working effectively and efficiently?
  • How well are folk in Fareham complying with public health safety measures?
  • How well are we ensuring the protection and preparedness of essential workers?
  • Are we protecting and preparing places where people are gathered – like Care Homes?
  • What are we doing to ensure preparedness of businesses for reopening?

The answers for Fareham may be comforting, but this is not rocket science*. These are very basic questions that sit on top of a host of finer detail – essential metrics that must be monitored locally to ensure your community management is in safe hands.

Since the crisis in Leicester, more data on infection rates in every Local Authority has become available but few places, if any, have a complete overview of the current situation in sufficient detail to enable rapid hyper-local responses to any new outbreak. Any lack of local insight illustrates dependency on over-centralised systems – an abdication of local authority.

Here in Fareham, we are truly fortunate to be among the least-affected, but questions of trust remain: How well do we know our place? What can we do locally to reduce the future risk of dependence on outsourced management?

*A full list of the main and subsidiary metrics was compiled by Johns Hopkins University together with a clear specification of the granularity required to identify ‘at risk’ sections of society. The list shown above is a local adaptation of an American text issued by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

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