Since the start of the coronavirus crisis, the Government’s mantra has always been the same: they will listen to the expert advice.
Remember the days – those gloriously simple days – when we were all up in arms over Brexit, experts were out and the ill-informed amateur was calling all the political shots? The red wall ruled and heartfelt opinions far outweighed the facts. One deadly virus later and we are all about the experts now.
But, alas, we are not. Forget the political rows over Sage, the misdemeanors of members and the questionable influence of the Prime Minister’s most controversial aide. Let’s set aside the advice, which saw the UK late to lockdown, the death rate soar and – tragically – coronavirus tearing through our care homes.
Let’s not dwell on personal protective equipment (PPE). The farcical failure to get basic safety equipment to the front line. And the constant reinvention of the wheel – creating central systems to bypass existing local institutions.
Despite the catalogue of errors, I can’t help but think I am still far more in favour of expert advice. But then, it all depends on which expert you listen to.
For all the rhetoric, central government is not quite hearing the message from the experts in local government.
Social services directors are now writing publicly to ministers after private warnings went unheeded. They said the fund set up to tackle coronavirus in care homes is weighed down with bureaucracy and, worse still, can’t be spent on PPE.
Public health directors have also spoken out over plans to lift lockdown and local authorities are refusing to drop the stay at home message in the face of rising virus rates outside the capital.
This is not councils playing politics – these are professional bodies raising real concerns in the face of a major crisis. This is expert advice, straight from the front line.
If the Government’s mantra is that it will take the evidence over opinion and listen to reason, it should be listening to local government – those on the front line who have to deal with everyday issues.