By Grahame Anderson
Sir Keir Starmer has shared a zoom conference with the leaders of the Labour led local authorities on the recent coronavirus restrictions in the area.
On a visit to Wakefield he was keen to see how their own areas were coping with the new guidelines, new cases of the virus and a fall in capacity in care homes.
Supported by Susan Hinchcliffe from Bradford and Tim Swift from Calderdale, Shabir Pandor the Kirklees leader was forthright in his concerns about how the Government has handled the situation.
He questioned the new restrictions in the light of falling numbers of cases in the borough. Councillor Pandor told Sir Keir the council was testing people via mobile testing units in areas that had “higher than average” infection rates.
He explained: “Finding out information by tweet or social media isn’t really the right thing to do. We have a lot on our plate but we need to have better communication.
“A lot of things have been put in place now but we need to keep the goodwill and the confidence of our communities. The message is very complicated.
“Different people are getting different messages from different departments and it’s really confusing our communities.”
He also intimated there was a will to ensure the poorest areas in the borough were not penalised by restrictions and that businesses and employers were supported and incentivised.
The Labour leader was also keen to find out if official data on affected areas was getting better.
Sir Keir said: “The approach we’ve taken on local restrictions is to support the decision the Government has taken, but the communication has been very, very poor.
“The communication in these cases where announcements were made at nine o’clock or ten o’clock at night, very often on social media, which changed the rules for people starting at midnight, caused huge chaos and uncertainty.
“Lots of local people and communities just didn’t know what the rules are. That is no way to handle a situation like this.
“Nobody can pretend that there won’t be local outbreaks. It’s very difficult to get this right and therefore there will be. The question is: are the right steps in place to prepare for this?
“One of the concerns of the local leaders that I was talking to is, in effect, they are having to learn and handle this in real time and there should have been a plan in action.”
Current coronavirus cases seem to be stable at the moment in Kirklees.in