Government hindering Covid response by ignoring councils and failing to share data, MPs told

The government has been accused of ignoring councils and failing to share data with local public health teams, hindering the effort to control Covid-19.

Local government leaders told MPs on Wednesday that there had been “no coordination” by central government, that orders were handed down by diktat from Whitehall, and that local authorities learned about new initiatives at the same time as the media.

“It certainly has been quite evident throughout that we have not been trusted with the data and we’ve not been trusted with the powers,” Sir Peter Soulsby, mayor of Leicester, told a hearing of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on coronavirus.

“The combination of those two aspects has very significantly hindered our ability to respond as we’d wish to and could.”

Ian Hudspeth of the Local Government Association said the government has given “no reasons” to explain why it was still not sharing adequate data with public health teams to help them fight the virus.

“Certainly data is now available to us but I think not sufficient,” he said, adding that councils needed “real time data getting down to ward level” to really respond quickly to pandemics.

Experts have for weeks been urging the government to decentralise its test and trace system, amid evidence that local councils are getting better results than the centralised and privatised system using call-centres staffed by outsourcing company Serco.

The Independent Sage group of experts said earlier this month that it was “impossible to fathom” why the government was running such a centralised system and said ministers should redirect resources towards councils.

But Sir Peter, whose city of Leicester was the first in the country to be put under local lockdown, said government refusal to trust and cooperate with councils and the public health teams was had potentially worsened the situation.

“Our director of public health, for example, in the middle of June identified that there appeared to be a spike in Leicester and asked a number of questions about what that may or may not indicted,” he said.

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