Calls for inquiry into county Covid response

By Forester Reporter   |   Reporter   |
Friday 20th May 2022 4:00 pm
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(The Welsh Government )

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COUNCIL leaders are set to dismiss calls for an inquiry into how public bodies responded to the Covid-19 pandemic as an “expensive and wasteful way to politicise what was an incredibly challenging two years”.

The Liberal Democrat group at Gloucestershire County Council are set to put forward a motion for the inquiry at Full Council today (Wednesday, May 18), amid claims that mistakes were made which “sadly cost lives”.

The group says “the time is right” to ask questions of how the county council and public health bodies performed during the pandemic, as the Government has now “declared that we must learn to live with Covid.”

A total of 1,535 people have had Covid listed on their death certificate in the county since the start of the pandemic.

The Lib Dems say their motion is “not about attributing blame”, but aims to ensure services are better prepared for further waves of Covid-19 or future pandemics.

But council chiefs say the county council has no legal power to launch such an inquiry, and that public health and social care teams continue to work “tirelessly” to deal with the aftermath of the pandemic.

Proposer of the motion, Cllr Jeremy Hilton (LD, Kingshom and Wotton), said: “In a fast moving situation, it is unreasonable to expect our public bodies to get everything right. 

“Yet, during the pandemic, mistakes sadly cost lives.

“For example, we know that there were numerous times when people were moved from hospital to care homes without testing first – which likely led to outbreaks within these care homes.  

“By the end of the pandemic, barely a single care home had not seen Covid deaths. 

“This a long way from the promised “protective ring” that was meant to keep our vulnerable loved ones safe.

“More than 1,500 people in our county have died from Covid-19. 

“We owe it to them and their families to learn these lessons now so we can better protect our residents from any possible pandemic that might occur in the future.”

The Labour group is expected to support the motion and group leader John Bloxsom (L, Rodborough) said his party has consistently called for a public inquiry to start as soon as possible.

However, the motion will likely be rejected as the Conservative group has a majority.

Council leader Mark Hawthorne (C, Quedgeley) said: “This Liberal Democrat motion calls for an inquiry that we have no legal power to launch.

“We will of course be feeding into the national Covid-19 Inquiry along with all other local authorities in the UK, and have already planned structured debriefs for our teams to capture the Gloucestershire specific learning and inform how we respond to future challenges.

“This motion is an expensive and wasteful way to politicise an incredibly challenging two years.

“Our public health and adult social care teams are working tirelessly on dealing with the aftermath of the pandemic and that is where the Conservative group’s focus remains too.”

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