BCP Council published its Local Outbreak Management Plan on 30 June 2020. This report sets out how the Council will respond to significant outbreaks, and or increasing COVID-19 infection rates in our communities. Councils have local powers available to them under the coronavirus health protection regulations, to support prompt public health action. This paper updates Councillors on the Local Outbreak Management Plan and recommends powers are delegated to the Chief Executive, as advised by the Director of Public Health.
The Leader of the Council presented a report, a copy of which had been circulated to each Member and a copy of which appears as Appendix “A” to the minutes in the Minute Book on the Local Outbreak Management Plan and the specific powers delegated to the Chief Executive. She reported that she was delighted that so many Councillors had attended the seminar on 14 September 2020 on the Plan which explained the escalation process if the number of cases in the BCP Council area were to increase. The Plan provided for specific delegated powers to the Chief Executive as advised by the Director of Public Health relating to issues such as closure of premises.
The Leader in presenting the report referred to the current difficulties being experienced at testing sites including the Creekmoor testing site. She wanted to provide reassurance to the public and reported that she had written to Baroness Dido Harding, the Head of Test and Trace, the Secretary of State, local MPs and the Director of Public health, not only about the difficulties in obtaining tests but also other operational issues. The Leader of the Council reported that she had been raising complaints on these issues for some time. She emphasised that it was crucial that the public have confidence in the ability to get a test and follow the instructions from Public Health and that the Government needed to resolve this national issue quickly.
A Councillor reported that the training that she attended on 14 September 2020 was good, but extremely short and rather late. She highlighted her concerns relating to the actual process in accessing a test which was impossible. She explained that the Chief Executive had struggled to gain any responses to his numerous approaches to Public Health. She referred to documented evidence of ‘horror stories’ that many local residents were experiencing. The Councillor reported that the Council had been advised that the issue was due to lab capacity which in her view was an excuse when the tests from the Creekmoor testing site were being sent to the same labs as Bristol, Isle of Wight and Devon. She proposed a virtual delegation from the Council be sent to Government on the Creekmoor regional testing centre emphasising that the process and protocols were not working and the need to resolve this matter quickly as the Council did not want any deaths as a result of this failing.
The Leader of the Council clarified the specific delegated powers of the Chief Executive in accordance with the Local Outbreak Management Plan which were to close premises, restrict events and restrict access to premises. She highlighted that the difficulties with testing was a national problem, the Council had no involvement with the Creekmoor Testing Centre and emphasised that this was a matter that the Government needed to resolve. A Councillor confirmed that she was not saying that the Council was at fault it was Public Health England and the incorporated system that had failed. The Leader of the Councillor apologised if she had misunderstood the Councillor.
A Councillor congratulated Officers for the plan and welcomed the acknowledgement of the role of ward councillors referenced in the training session on 14 September and the need to use ward councillors knowledge and insight. A Councillor also highlighted the need to be responsible and follow the guidelines as the number of cases in the area was a high number for other Countries where lockdown had been applied.
RESOLVED that Council notes that the Chief Executive has delegated authority to exercise the local powers available to the Council under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) (No.3) Regulations 2020 (the “Regulations”) should the need arise in connection with any outbreak or significant increase in coronavirus cases.