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COVID-19: Unprecedented Times Call for an Unprecedented Response


Written by:
Councillor Anthony Hunt, Leader of Torfaen County Borough Council, CCR Cabinet Lead Inclusive Growth

In these unprecedented times, our communities can be reassured to know that all of us in government are doing whatever we can to make sure support is available to help them through the crisis.

I’m glad that the UK Government recognises the need for an economic stimulus to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Now is not the time for playing politics, we need to work together. But as a council leader I have some thoughts about the health, social and economic impacts of the crisis that need addressing.

We need to target the stimulus at the less well off, not those at the top. We must support people and businesses to enable them to make wise health choices, and to survive the economic consequences of this crisis too. A universal income policy for a limited period would be worth exploring.

Small businesses and voluntary organisations will need grant help, not just repayable loans, and investment in them will benefit our foundational economies far more than spending on big businesses.

Council leaders like me would be the happiest people in the world if we could give individuals and businesses a break in council tax and rates; but this would need to be funded centrally as we just don’t have the funds, and this crisis puts our resources under more, not less, pressure.

The local authorities that make up Cardiff Capital Region all have contingency plans in place to deal with emergencies such as infectious diseases.  In addition, we are working with both the UK and Welsh governments to help deliver the extra support that is being made available to help businesses through the particular difficulties created by this coronavirus pandemic.

We are doing all we can to keep services running, but we need to act with compassion as well as efficiency.

My cabinet have met to discuss what we can do to help people through this, as well as how we keep services on the road. Head and heart are both vital.

The leaders of the 10 local authorities are used to working together to solve common problems through the Cardiff Capital Region structure, and we will continue to do so throughout this crisis. Each of us will also be working separately with our colleagues in our own areas to make sure businesses and communities get the support they need.

I have been impressed by the leadership my colleagues in the CCR Regional Cabinet have shown and the spirit of collaboration that is evident in all they do. It is this coming together and helping each other that we need above all as we face the difficult times ahead.

Many of our businesses are already facing intense pressure from falling demand and staff having to isolate, and these pressures will mount in the weeks and months ahead. Support is being made available through business rate relief, grants and loans, and our local authorities will be playing their part in delivering some of this support and advising businesses on how they can access other help.

I am really concerned about the impact of this situation on people’s mental health, especially if social distancing and isolation are necessary for an extended period. We must find ways to look after ourselves and those around us.

But if things like panic buying have displayed a less admirable part of society, the response of people volunteering to help each other shows its best side. Let’s keep an eye out for each other and work together, and we will get through the worst it can throw at us, with each other’s help.

Working together and helping each other, we will make it through this crisis and be ready to carry on as before in our businesses and communities when things return to normal.

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