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Competence is needed as Covid cases rise, says councillor in his column

Column, by South Kesteven Labour councillor Lee Steptoe

As Covid cases go up across the country, including Lincolnshire, it’s time to do some reflection.

In late July, as cases receded, the Prime Minister spoke of “a significant return to normality by Christmas”. A foolish promise that showed his lack of judgement.

Councillor Lee Steptoe, Labour (24894592)
Councillor Lee Steptoe, Labour (24894592)

Infections are now doubling every few days and the R rate of infection is around 1.5, up from 0.9 in the summer. This is all so incredibly predictable.

Our Government seemed utterly unprepared for the rise of infections once schools fully reopened. The summer months should have been spent getting the track and trace system up and running competently; forget the “world beating” boasts of Mr Johnson in May. Instead, the Government wasted time and political capital on trying to fix the shambles of exam results by algorithm.

It also as recently as late August was urging us to ‘eat out to help out.’ A partial U-turn has seen closing time imposed at 10pm, for what good that will do. This haphazard, chaotic approach has defined their response to the pandemic.

Demand for tests has exceeded capacity by up to four times and 90 per cent are not reaching the turnaround target. To be fair the virus would have tested the most competent of governments: public health is constantly being balanced against keeping the economy going. But Johnson has constantly squandered goodwill by his boasting and exaggerated promises – a consistent feature of his political career. He is now rated in the opinion polls as far less popular than the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, and has been overtaken as the preferred Prime Minister by the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, whose cool precision displays everything that the PM does not.

As autumn draws on with its normal flu, coughs and cold season, some basic competence is urgently needed. I fully support Sir Keir’s call that “local politicians should be put in the driving seat” of dealing with the virus. With over a third of England under local lockdowns it is councils that know what is best in their area.

During Johnson’s tour of the worst hit areas in the north he simply did not have a clue what specific restrictions applied where. Whitehall does not know best.

As many as my differences are with Tory dominated SKDC, I would much rather it was making key local decisions than the most unimpressive government in memory. We can only hope for limited further damage.

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