Staffordshire in Tier 3 and the Spending Review

The main news this week that Staffordshire and Stoke will be placed in Tier 3 when England exits the national lockdown on Wednesday has somewhat eclipsed the progress we’ve made in reducing infection levels across the city and county, a 25% reduction from the peak 10 days ago. The task in the next two weeks is to maintain this progress and make the reduction to Tier 2 at the next decision point a certainty. 

As well as maintaining residents’ compliance, which is a challenge the longer this emergency lasts, we are working to develop our local Test and Trace programme, using Lateral Flow Testing (LFT). This is the technology which gives results in 30 or so minutes, which allows us to move more quickly in pursuit of outbreaks. We have the freedom to create an end-to-end process from intelligence-led targeting of businesses, schools and communities, through testing, contact tracing and testing of contacts, to support and compulsion for those who have a positive diagnosis. We already have around 150 volunteers applying to be testers in our programme, and we will develop the tactics, techniques and procedures as we learn by doing. 

The other big news this week was the Chancellor’s Spending Review on Wednesday.  Obviously, we will have to wait for the full detail, but I’m cautiously optimistic, and happy with the result. For local government, it was a rollover from this financial year and a little bit more in some important areas; there’s a bit more for social care, the potholes fund continues, and there is a mechanism for recouping a proportion of lost council tax. This last piece is very important, given the economic impact on our residents of the pandemic.

Having been careful in our shepherding of resources over many years, and particularly throughout the pandemic, Staffordshire County Council is well-placed to lead the response and recovery for our residents, businesses and communities, and we can do so without having to make difficult and damaging cuts in our activities.  The advantage of this is that we can remain focused on our residents, complete the transformation programmes as planned and stick to our MTFS, safe in the knowledge that it’s working well.  As an old friend used to put it to me, we’ve made our own luck, and now is the time to make the most of it. 

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