Venue: David Hicks 1 - Civic Offices, Shute End, Wokingham RG40 1BN
Contact: Neil Carr Democratic & Electoral Services Specialist
Note: Virtual Meeting
To receive any apologies for absence.
There were no apologies for absence.
To confirm the Minutes of the Meeting held on 19 February 2020.
The Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 19 February 2020 were confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
1. Councillor Frewin stated that he would have commented on the accuracy of Minute 78: Unauthorised Traveller Encampments. However, as a further report on Traveller Encampments was due to be considered at the Committee’s July 2020 meeting, he would raise his issues then.
2. Councillors Mickleburgh and Whittle were not members of the Committee in February 2020. Consequently, they abstained in the vote on this item.
Declaration of Interest
To receive any declarations of interest.
Declarations of interest were submitted by the following Members in relation to Item 10 on the Agenda, Covid-19 Pandemic – the Council’s Response:
· Andy Croy – volunteer at the Grub Club and the Community Hub;
· Paul Fishwick – Director of a small business;
· Guy Grandison – volunteer at Cisco, Green Park – producing face masks;
· Sarah Kerr – volunteer at the Community Hub;
· Ken Miall – Director of a small business;
· Andrew Mickleburgh – volunteer at the Community Hub;
· Alison Swaddle – Director of a small business and volunteer at the Community Hub.
Public Question Time
To answer any public questions.
A period of 30 minutes will be allowed for members of the public to ask questions submitted under notice.
The Council welcomes questions from members of the public about the work of this committee.
Subject to meeting certain timescales, questions can relate to general issues concerned with the work of the Committee or an item which is on the Agenda for this meeting. For full details of the procedure for submitting questions please contact the Democratic Services Section on the numbers given below or go to www.wokingham.gov.uk/publicquestions
There were no public questions.
Member Question Time
To answer any Member questions.
In accordance with the agreed procedure the Chairman invited Members to submit questions to the appropriate Members.
Gary Cowan asked the Chairman the following question:
Wokingham Borough Council in a press release on the 26th May stated that it is working hard to monitor the impact that Covid-19 is having on the local Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community. Evidence continues to emerge that the pandemic could be having a disproportionate impact on our BME communities with a higher proportion of Covid-19 deaths reported.
I very much welcome this very positive initiative so my question therefore is:
As Wokingham Borough Council must have access to Covid-19 information for all Wokingham’s affected residents to be able to monitor its impact ranging from those with the disease including those who recovered, those who sadly passed away either in Hospitals, Care Homes or at home, is it possible to publish a Borough Map showing areas where there are virus spikes as other authorities/countries have done?
Wokingham Borough Council, in a press release on the 26th May, stated that it is working hard to monitor the impact that Covid-19 is having on the local Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community. Evidence continues to emerge that the pandemic could be having a disproportionate impact on our BME communities with a higher proportion of Covid-19 deaths reported.
I very much welcome this very positive initiative so my question, therefore, is:
As Wokingham Borough Council must have access to Covid-19 information for all Wokingham’s affected residents to be able to monitor its impact ranging from those with the disease including those who recovered, those who sadly passed away either in Hospitals, Care Homes or at Home, is it possible to publish a Borough Map showing areas where there are virus spikes as other authorities/countries have done?
In Councillor Cowan’s absence, the following written answer was provided.
There is now a significant amount of information available to the public and professionals on the numbers of people with COVID-19, the death rates, age groups, socio-economic groups and ethnicity. Information is growing on understanding the pattern of this virus, the incubation period for different age groups, symptoms, and why it is disproportionally affecting BME communities and those in lower socio-economic areas.
Data is collated and distributed by Office for National Statistics (ONS) and Public Health England (PHE).
The Council receives information about the number of cases for Wokingham residents on a daily basis and weekly from the ONS on death rates for all residents and those in care homes. The Council publishes a report weekly on the council website:
The Council does not receive any postcode data at the moment in relation to COVID-19. The lowest geography for all the data we currently receive is at a LA level.
The only exception is two published sets of deaths data (by ONS) at an MSOA level (the second data release was on 12 June for March to May). Middle Layer Super Output Areas (MSOAs) are constructed from groups of Lower SOAs and are designed to contain 5,000 to 15,000 residents and 2,000 to 6,000 households. The link is:
The map from the InYourArea website, is the same map from the ONS (they have just embedded the code in their website). This reports on the MSOA, the local area:
https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/deathsinvolvingcovid19bylocalareasanddeprivation/deathsoccurringbetween1marchand17april#middle-layer-super-output-areas (section 6).
Lindsay Ferris asked the Chairman the following question:
How many residents of Wokingham Borough are known to have caught Covid-19, and of this total, how many have unfortunately died?
How many residents of Wokingham Borough are known to have caught Covid-19; and of this total how many unfortunately died?
The Council produces a weekly report to help residents understand the impact of COVID-19 and what the various data sets mean. This is on the Council website:
As of the 22 June 2020, 458 residents in Wokingham have been confirmed by testing as having Covid-19. There have been no new cases for the last 4 days. This is an underestimate of the true number of cases as, in the early stages of the pandemic, only hospital patients were tested. Now there is more widespread testing.
Up to 5 June there were, sadly, 143 deaths among Wokingham residents, with Covid-19 mentioned on the death certificate. This is also probably an underestimate, for the same reasons above, not everyone with symptoms were tested. The all-cause mortality is a better predictor of the impact of the pandemic as we can compare the expected number of death rates for the same point in the previous 5 years. Wokingham has been average compared to England for excess mortality since the beginning of March and is now back to normal expected levels of deaths per week.
Will this information and any lessons learned be included in the Council’s Covid-19 investigation?
Yes, it will be included. The Council’s weekly report sets out the most recently available data. This information will be useful for Overview and Scrutiny Members as they carry out their review.
To consider the Council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the process for detailed Scrutiny of specific issues by the four Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
The Committee considered a report, set out on Agenda Pages 15 to 133, which gave details of the Council’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Susan Parsonage (Chief Executive) and Graham Ebers (Deputy Chief Executive) attended the meeting to present the report and answer Member questions.
The report stated that the Covid-19 pandemic had had a huge impact on the lives of every resident in the Borough. The Council had played a key role in supporting and implementing the Government’s response to the pandemic in areas such as health and social care (for example by supporting vulnerable people and local care homes), children’s services (by safeguarding vulnerable children and supporting home learning) and the provision of advice and support for local businesses.
Whilst the Council’s response to the pandemic continued with significant workload for Officers, the reduction in community transmission and loosening of some lockdown measures provided an opportunity to take stock, assess the scale of the challenge and the way in which the Council had worked with a range of partners to respond.
The report set out a brief timeline of key events relating to the pandemic and the Council’s strategic response, summarised the Council’s emergency planning arrangements and detailed the way the Council mobilised resources in conjunction with other key players such as health, police, community and voluntary sector and the Town and Parish Councils.
In section 2, the report set out details of actions relating to key service areas and the data/feedback available to measure the effectiveness of the Council’s plans and subsequent actions.
Finally, in section 3, the report considered some of the initial learning from the handling of the pandemic and suggested how the Committee may choose to scrutinise key aspects of the response in detail, over an agreed timeline.
Susan Parsonage highlighted the way in which the Council had responded quickly and flexibly in line with its emergency plans. Key areas of focus included:
· support for local care homes, including development of the infection control Task Force and provision of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
· support and advice for local schools during lockdown and the reopening process;
· the rapid deployment of the Community Hub/Food Bank;
· the Talking Buddies programme which supported vulnerable residents;
· support and advice for the local business community.
In addition to this work the Council had continued to provide universal services such as waste collection and had developed an improved on-line service, such as the on-line libraries offer. It had also continued to work on providing financial information for the Government and closing down the 2019/20 financial accounts.
Susan stated that the proposed Scrutiny of the Council’s response would provide useful feedback for the Council’s response to the Government on the impact of the pandemic. It would also generate feedback which could be incorporated into the Council’s response to any future outbreaks of Covid-19. Whilst the Scrutiny process was welcomed, it was important to recognise that the Council was still responding to the pandemic and that Council Officers had been working under intense ... view the full minutes text for item 10.
To discuss the work programme of the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee and Overview and Scrutiny Committees for 2020-21.
The Committee considered a report, set out on Agenda pages 134 to 154, which discussed the proposed 2020/21 work programmes for the Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee and the three Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
Appended to the report was a work programme tracker for 2019/20, a list of additional Scrutiny requests and a draft Work Programme for each of the Overview and Scrutiny Committees.
In light of the significant additional work programme items agreed in relation to Agenda item 10: Covid-19 Pandemic – the Council’s Response, it was suggested that consideration of the 2020/21 Work Programmes be deferred to the Committee’s July 2020 meeting to enable the new items to be incorporated.
RESOLVED: That the Overview and Scrutiny Committee Work Programmes for 2020/21, as amended, be considered at the Committee’s meeting on 15 July 2020.