Northumberland leaders working to 'keep lid on horrible virus' while planning recovery for county

The leader of Northumberland County Council has said there will now be a focus on recovery plans to restart the economy and get people back to work ‘as long as it’s safe to do so’.

File picture by Ben Birchall/PA Wire
File picture by Ben Birchall/PA Wire

Addressing the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, June 9, Conservative Coun Peter Jackson claimed that the local authority had been ‘critical’ to the response in the county, through schemes such as Northumberland Communities Together, which has coordinated volunteer efforts.

“We have been doing a huge amount of work to support our care homes, not just advice, but with PPE (personal protective equipment) and finance,” he added – although in April there was criticism from an organisation representing care providers in the North East at the lack of support from all of the region’s councils.

Looking ahead, Coun Jackson said: “Not only we will be working on track and trace and how we can keep a lid on this horrible virus, but we are looking at our recovery plans and how we can restart the local economy in Northumberland, getting people back to work as long as it’s safe to do so.”

His comments followed an update from Northumberland’s director of public health, Liz Morgan, who said: “We are cautiously positive from a Northumberland point of view.”

She referred to the vastly reduced number of deaths and new infections in recent weeks and the fact that there have also been no outbreaks in care homes in the last week.

However, as with her update to the council’s health and wellbeing committee last week – where she said that ‘the key to preventing a second wave is for all of us to stick to the rules’ – she also emphasised that there are concerns from directors of public health nationally that ‘the lockdown is being eased on multiple fronts in a short space of time’.

“There is absolutely no room for complacency,” she added.

Coun Jackson said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank you as director of public health and all the staff of the council for all your efforts.

“The situation came completely out of the blue and no one expected we would be in this position just a number of weeks ago.”

Outside the meeting, the view of the deputy leader of the opposition Labour group, Coun Scott Dickinson, is that ‘Northumberland rose above the national Covid-19 chaos and did what was best for the county’.

“The way the county council, the clinical commissioning group which plans and buys healthcare on behalf of people living in the county, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, GPs and care-home providers have worked together has to be acknowledged,” he said.

“At a national level, it is hard to take any pride in how the pandemic has been handled; the lack of testing, a shortage of protective equipment, the highest death toll in Europe and one of the highest in the world – the numbers speak for themselves.

“But at a county level, the response has been amazing. As a county, and despite being starved of resources for many years, Northumberland has responded to every single one of the national Government’s requirements (and there have been many) and worked in partnership in the interests of everyone living in the county.

“Many of the issues highlighted nationally simply did not happen in our county, because organisations worked together to solve them on a local level.”

He added: “I would like to pay tribute to everyone working at Northumberland County Council and partner health and care organisations who have worked tirelessly in the best interests of people living in this county.”