Your councils have been extraordinary in the last week – now it’s time to show them your thanks
PUBLISHED: 12:12 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 15:12 23 March 2020
The old adage that the worst of situations can bring out the best in people couldn’t be more apt right now.
There are so many things going on – from small acts of neighbours getting groceries for those unable to get out of the house, to bigger campaigns and organised voluntary activities.
But perhaps it is also worth highlighting the efforts of some of our local authorities, who often have to take a lot of flak with little thanks.
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Questions may have been raised about how central government has responded to the COVID-19 crisis, and whether it is acting swiftly enough given how other nations have reacted, but little criticism can be levelled at our councils here in Suffolk.
I can’t imagine now chaotic it must feel for teams like Suffolk County Council’s education department, as they try and put in place and manage education provision for children of key workers.
The refuse collection teams from all the districts and boroughs too are still going around and picking up waste – not knowing whether they are picking up rubbish from someone who may be infected.
Frankly, there are too many civil servants to be able to acknowledge in this column.
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But it is worth highlighting the level of communication coming from every district, borough and county authority in Suffolk.
Each day the councils have been putting out numerous press releases on actions they are doing, mobilising on social media streams and diligently answering questions from the local media who are putting your questions and concerns to them.
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Suffolk County Council has been putting out briefings every day at 2pm containing the latest advice and measures, up-to-date statistics, and a comprehensive guide of support websites.
That sort of leadership is vital right now, and as such should be praised for their hard work.
Yes, as a member of the media – particularly one who specialises in local government – I am more inclined to see these messages, but it also means that I am in a position to see just how well our authorities have stepped up to the plate.
Clear messages, advice and reassurance goes a long way at a time like this, and it is pleasing to see that is exactly what they are doing.
Director of public health Stuart Keeble has been highly visible, regularly addressing readers and listeners of the county’s press, something of a feat in itself given the times dictate visibility is probably harder than ever when we should all be cooped up in our homes.
Elsewhere, the county council managed to relax time restrictions on bus passes within hours of issues being raised by pensioners saying they could not get to the early morning supermarket slots dedicated to them. It’s a can-do attitude that tackles the problem head on.
And only yesterday we saw the county council’s political groups publicly cast their differences aside to unite for such a huge issue. Of course, every councillor regardless of political persuasion acts according to what they believe is right and best for Suffolk people on every issue, and while holding to account and measured debate is important it is also a reality that often politics can frustrate the process of actually getting things done. Not so right now. This isn’t about political gamesmanship, and it is encouraging to see that there has been very little by way of political points-scoring.
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The phrases “unprecedented” and “Blitz-spirit” are being bandied about a lot right now, and of course it is true, but that is precisely why acts of going above-and-beyond should be praised, publicly.
Local councils often take a lot of heat, but not, today, from me. Today I tip my hat to them.