Following presentations to the County Council from Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s director of public health, and other senior officers, Norfolk Liberal Democrats have renewed their call for an independent local inquiry in order to tackle the next phase of disease in the most effective and socially just way possible.
“I listened attentively to the presentations given by senior officers, all of whom have clearly committed significant time and expertise to their various areas of work, and to sustaining Norfolk County Council’s response so far” said Cllr Steffan Aquarone, leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Norfolk County Council (pictured left).
“But questioning senior officers alone cannot provide the people of Norfolk with the answers that matter most: what will happen next, who will take the lead, and how will Norfolk’s economy seek to recover as quickly as possible?"
“When we called for an independent local inquiry back at the start of May, we made it clear that this should be anchored in the future, and centered on the people of Norfolk, who will return to ‘normal life’ at different speeds. There will be different levels and lengths of the ongoing effects of the virus on different groups in society and yet without a proper recovery plan we will push tens of thousands of people in Norfolk into poverty when the Government money runs out."
These questions come as the committee heard, in response to a question from Cllr Steffan Aquarone, that the number of Covid-19 deaths in Norfolk was expected to be ‘too small to analyse meaningfully’ and ‘within the rolling 5-year average of what we would see in winter’.
"The County Council is already facing a £20m shortfall in the few short months it has been dealing with this crisis, and a return to the programme of brutal 'business as usual' cuts is unrealistic." added Deputy Group Leader Dan Roper.” "But there are also many opportunities to use what we have learned in the crisis, to support a green economic recovery, celebrate our beautiful environment, and build compassion and kindness into the way we run our public services. To develop this plan confidently, and protect the most vulnerable, we still need to know what the overall number of excess deaths in Norfolk has been, and what the learnings actually are from the debriefs we've been assured are taking place. Good strategy needs detail as well as leadership - and both these things have been lacking from the County Council's Tory leadership."