Covid Watch: As Telford and Wrekin moves towards Tier 2, we must ask how decisions are being made

Covid Watch: As Telford and Wrekin moves towards Tier 2, we must ask how decisions are being made

Update: Telford and Wrekin moves into Tier 2 at 12:01am Saturday 31 October. 

Media reports, including from BBC Radio Shropshire, today suggest that a decision on whether Telford and Wrekin will move up to Tier 2 will be made today or tomorrow. The main impact of Tier 2 will be that friends and family members who are not in the same household must not meet indoors. Be that meeting in a pub, restaurant or a cosy family home.

While we await the decision on Telford and Wrekin, I have been asking how these decisions on Tiers are made. Is a change of tier a diktat from central government or is there a local voice? How does the Shropshire unitary area keep in step with our sibling council in Telford and Wrekin?

My concerns come as infection rates grow in both Telford and Wrekin and the Shropshire unitary area. There is always a lag to the public health data and it takes five days for the number to settle down.

It looks like the current infection rate – number of positive tests per 100,000 people over the last seven days – in Telford and Wrekin is above 200 and rising. A significant cluster is around Harper Adams University. More students and more testing. Undoubtedly more infection. Stripping this cluster out, the seven day infection rate in Telford and Wrekin goes down from around 210 to around 180. That’s still high. And that’s why West Midlands officers and politicians leading on epidemic response were briefed last night that Telford and Wrekin might be pushed into Tier 2 within days.

The Shropshire unitary area has a lower seven day infection rate. Five days ago, it was just above 100. It looks like it is above 120 today. We need the on positive tests data to settle to get a precise figure.

These numbers are important. Before the tiers were introduced, it was widely reported that a seven day infection rate of 100 would be the threshold between Tier 1 and Tier 2. We have learnt since that the system doesn’t work that way. The capacity of the local NHS is a major factor in decision-making. If there are beds – and reports suggest there is not much capacity anywhere – the community can take a higher rate.

The process by which local authorities move up a tier, even go down a tier, is opaque. I want to know who is making the decisions. I want to know what criteria influence those decisions.

I am asking questions at the council’s cabinet next Monday. Who makes the decisions? What roles does the council have? What role do councillors have? How do we work with Telford and Wrekin? Our sibling but different unitary council. I am also asking about Covid-19 Marshalls.

Questions to Shropshire Cabinet 2 November

From Councillor Andy Boddington  

Monitoring of Covid-19 regulation compliance by businesses

Some of the government funding provided to councils in recent months was to support the employment, or redeployment of staff, to monitor whether business premises are complying with Covid-19 restrictions. This question seeks information on the resources and role for council staff – labelled “Covid Marshals in the media – in the Shropshire unitary area. I have specific questions but I would welcome a more expansive briefing on the role of staff monitoring Covid-19 compliance:

1) What is the specific role of staff engaged in monitoring compliance of businesses with the current Covid-19 restrictions?

2) When did the council begin monitoring the compliance of businesses with the current Covid-19 restrictions?

3) What budget has been allocated to business compliance?

4) What actions, in summary and preferably in numbers, has the ‘compliance team’ taken?

Moving between Covid-19 tiers

As I write this question, positive tests for Covid-19 are growing across the Shropshire unitary area and across the Telford and Wrekin area. Media reports suggest Telford and Wrekin is at the brink of moving into Tier 2.

1) Taking as given that there is no formal government threshold for moving between tiers, what is the council’s threshold for making a commitment to move to Tier 2?

2) Where within the council is the locus for deciding to support a change of tier? Will councillors be involved in any decision?

3) What is the government decision-making process for allowing, or mandating, a change of tier? Does Shropshire Council have the final say? If not, where does that decision lie?

4) Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin councils are siblings. Often with different views of the world. Sometimes squabbling. But our economies and social geographies are closely related. What discussions are taking, of have taken, place with Telford and Wrekin Council about a joint approach to managing any change in tier?

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