Agenda item

Statement by the Leader of the Council


The Leader of the Council made the following statement:


The weekly rate to 20th February in Wokingham is now 48.5 today, which is well below the peak of 606 on the 4th January but still compares very badly to the below five in August.  We suspect that we will hover around this figure for some time.  Happily, both hospitalisations and deaths are also stable.  Our lives have changed, unrecognisably for some, and many lives have so sadly been lost.  I can only restate my condolences for those that have suffered so much.

I would like again to say again to a big thank you to everybody who has stepped up to the plate and made it possible for life to continue during these appalling times.


It has never been more vital that we play our role and continue to observe the rules.

Earlier this week the PM made a statement on a roadmap for easing lockdown restrictions in England.  Vaccines are at the heart of the government strategy, with 17million people having received the vaccine.   The Government is taking a cautious approach to easing lockdown, guided by the data to avoid surge infections that would put unsustainable pressure on the NHS.  When moving from one step to another in the roadmap the Government will examine data to assess the impact of the previous step.  This will be based on four tests:


·       The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully;

·       Evidence showing vaccines are sufficiently effective in reducing hospitalisation;

·       Infection rates do not risk a surge in hospitalisation;

·       Assessment of risk is not fundamentally changed by new variants or of concern.


As we move forward on the road map, the Council will have a central role in its success.  Moreover, this is part of our Recovery strategy.  For example, rolling out the vaccination is critical.  We are doing all that we can to enable this with our health partners.   Expanding and scaling our community testing offer on lateral flow testing will be crucial – building on the Shute End and the Microsoft sites as we know that 1 in 3 people are asymptomatic.  To be successful this testing needs to be part of everybody’s daily routine.  We need to change the behaviour and continually check for positive cases so that these cases can then self-isolate.  We need to have an enhanced tracing regime to ensure those residents who are positive, do self-isolate.  We need to rapidly deploy thousands of PCR tests door to door should the data suggest we have a problem in the Borough.


Also, we need to maintain our excellent support to groups particularly at risk from Covid such as those in care home.  At the same time, we need to address inequalities ensuring for example that those disenfranchised are testing and receiving vaccinations, and that we are addressing vaccination hesitancy.  


Therefore, as part of recovery and outbreak management we need to have a tailored approach to our communities. 


Alongside our efforts on Covid Contain as part of Recovery we are also focussing on the following areas.


·       Supporting businesses and stimulating job creation and skills;

·       Physical and mental wellbeing;

·       Maintaining resilient and sustainable services;

·       Harnessing digital and data for insight;

·       Focussing on children and young people and education;

·       Inequality and social inclusion.


We are already moving forward and taking action on these recovery themes and a report will be brought to the Executive on action taken so far and future action.


At the Council in February, I stated that the budget put forward was a budget for recovery.  It provides almost half a billion pounds over the next three years for investment in our community and a considerable amount of this will stimulate our local economy and seek to address the housing needs in the Borough for those not currently able to afford to buy their homes.  The budget also provided considerable additional ongoing investment into our care services, including the likes of the Domestic Abuse service, to ensure that we can support our residents in overcoming the fall out of this terrible virus.  You may also be aware that we have done much work recently on our Poverty Strategy, our Equalities Strategy, these are also a critical part of our recovery strategy.


The main item today is the Council’s approach to Covid as reviewed by Overview & Scrutiny.  The administration believes that O&S provides a vital function for our decision making and democracy, and has sought to ensure that it is far reaching and unfettered in its work.  For example, the budget now is reviewed by O&S prior to adoption over a period in excess of six months.


Thank you to all the officers involved and the work of overview and scrutiny in reviewing our Covid response as we can always learn more.  Thank you very much.