Boris Johnson’s disdain for local government is a big reason why we are in this current coronavirus mess

a group of people driving in the back of a truck

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"In case you were wondering how much overcapacity Germany has" tweeted Financial Times Correspondent Joe Miller next to a photo: “This popup at Nuremberg train station offers FREE tests for passers-by. It took me five minutes to wait for my train. The place was pretty empty. "

A few weeks ago I had a similar experience with the trip to southern Germany, an electronic panel that advised the high-risk regions in southern Europe, and the message that if you come from one of these regions, please turn left – to the test center, that was exactly there, on the highway. Head start a real test and trace system that works. Head start a real government that works nationally and locally.

As I continued my trip, national radio news reported that Chancellor Angela Merkel and Health Minister Jens Spahn were holding a video conference with executives and health ministers from the country, the federal piece entitled Federal Republic of Germany. And when I got to the hotel, local TV news had a package about how the mayors in the area reacted to the hotel Coronavirus crisisand explain their role in handling.

All over the UK people are asking, "Why?" Why can't we get over it? I wonder if the lack of real German-style engagement in sharing power and respect and appreciation for what can be done locally is a big part of the answer.

Here is a mild Mea Culpa. I said right at the start of the pandemic that in a crisis the government needs to centralize operations quickly and that No. 10 should hold a daily press conference. However, the centralization I was thinking of was one where the government coordinates, not one where the government tries to control everything and keeps telling us how well it is doing when the evidence is in front of all of our eyes say something completely different.

My idea of ​​an effective daily briefing was one that was used to explain what actually happened, not to stand there and wait for a standing ovation because they worked day and night, drove up, put their arms around nursing homes, and did anything took, or whatever other temporary slogans and clichés were thrown up for deletion.

Talk to people in Local governmentand you get pretty frequent news quickly. The central government is not just showing a level of incompetence it has never seen under Tory, Labor or the coalition. But one of the reasons is a refusal to understand when the local government can do better. Some of the greatest successes of this crisis have been local and the greatest national shortcomings.

Although the austerity measures have starved them, the local councils have essentially done an excellent job keeping local services up and running. That the nursing home sector has been hit so hard is not because of that, despite the great work of the key workers on the ground. and their struggles have been exacerbated by the central government's constant promise that they will get what they need, particularly on PPE or testing, only to get too promising, followed by an underdelivery.

Many councils said they had to pick up the pieces in connection with the delivery of food if national planning focused on shielding people. and also reported that food supplied to councils by the government was often nutritionally deficient, not meeting the needs or requirements of different faiths.

If the local authorities were responsible for providing shelter for the homeless and food for hungry people in incredibly difficult circumstances, they have done pretty well. The central government talked about volunteering, but it was the local government that actually mobilized. Community hubs have often been excellent.

According to surveys, 70 percent are “very satisfied” or “fairly satisfied” with the way their local council supports them and their household during the pandemic, and only 7 percent are dissatisfied. Carolyn Fairbairn, director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said the effectiveness of the local responses had led them and many companies to change their minds in support of greater local decentralization.

The failure to think locally and support locally is a big part of the overall story of failure at test and trace. The government doesn't think much of local government anyway, especially if it's not Tory-influenced, which is why even more central reform is planned. And they operate under the illusion that the best way to carry out larger logistical operations is to hire large private operators at enormous expense. We have all heard the stories of people from Essex being offered tests one day in Plymouth and the next in Newcastle, while people in Plymouth and Newcastle are also offered hundreds of miles away. This is a direct consequence of national over local, private over public.

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You can use any apps and algorithms you want that undoubtedly play a role. But you also need people who know an area. You need intelligence in both senses of the word. There are public and environmental health teams working on the ground who have extensive experience with the principles of testing and tracing as they have done so in relation to the fight against HIV and hepatitis, sexually transmitted diseases.

Nobody wants another national lockdown. However, this means that the local councils, not the national government – and especially not these, with their limited reserves of authority and credibility – must be empowered to develop and implement strategies that correspond to the manifestation of the virus in their area.

However, this means that the central government has far more confidence in the local authorities, not only with the resources needed to deliver whatever is asked of them, but also in terms of data collection and analysis. Failure to share data, especially at the beginning, was a disastrous mistake. Given that mixed news has affected UK government communications, it would be far better if the local authorities were also responsible for their own communications strategies.

Baroness Dido Harding, formerly TalkTalk, chairs Matt Hancock About the current testing issues and something very Johnsonian about the government that believes it has done so well if it should now be considered for the soon-to-be-vacant position of running the NHS herself. Boris Johnson, Hancock and Co do a lot of TalkTalk. It's the DoDo that's going less well. You have to do less and talk less. The country would feel better.

Local authorities need to talk more and do more, and central government needs to fund and empower them.

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