Local test and trace to be boosted with borough’s infection rate worst in London
Council housing officers supporting the borough's test and trace system
Hammersmith & Fulham Council have criticised the delay in calling the second lockdown in England and have called for the Government to pay councils the money they need to support virus-hit communities.
The Labour-run administrations says it is £13.7m “out of pocket” because of the costs of coronavirus.
According to the most recent Government data there were 410 cases of coronavirus diagnosed in the borough in the last week of October, with 221.5 cases per 100,000 population. It now has the highest case rate of any London borough.
Across London 13,457 cases were diagnosed in the same week, with a rate of 150 per 100,000 people. The rate across England was 226 per 100,000.
Max Schmid, cabinet member for finance said, “This is an extremely difficult blow to our finances.”
And deputy leader Sue Fennimore said calling a lockdown now, rather than during half term would cause “a month of more pain”.
She said it was “deeply disappointing” that the Government did not run a “short lockdown” over half term which Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer called for.
She said it “would have made sense to our residents over half term”.
Ben Coleman, the cabinet member for health and adult social care, said, “The second lockdown is much too late coming.”
He added, “We’re focusing on controlling this pandemic and protecting our communities.”
He said the council is planning to support residents and businesses “through lockdown and beyond.”
The plans include rolling out more local contact tracing in the borough, including knocking on people’s doors if they can’t be contacted on the phone.
Councillor Coleman said the council thought the Government should use the next four weeks to sort out the national test and trace scheme and devolve it to local councils.
The council is also writing to the 9,000 residents who shielded during the first UK-wide lockdown to offer them support with food deliveries, keeping themselves safe and giving advice on how to make ends meet. And Mutual Aid volunteers will also be on hand to help.
The council is also bidding to use the newly refurbished Sands End Arts and Community centre as a Covid testing centre – as it can’t be used for community events right now.
The council spent just under £100,000 on vouchers for 5,000 children to get lunch over half term. It also gave schools an extra 20 per cent to use at their discretion as families circumstances change.
The move followed the Government’s decision not to fund meals nationally over half term for children who get free school meals. It said it had already given councils money.
Larry Culhane, the cabinet member for children and education said: “We are expecting the government not to step in at Christmas so we are already making plans to step in at Christmas.”
He said schools gave out the vouchers at short notice on the Friday before half term and in some cases on the Saturday.
Julia Gregory - Local Democracy Reporter
November 3, 2020