‘We’ve got to be prepared for more disease pandemics' say Milton Keynes councillors

    Councillors are pulling out all the bureaucratic stops to make sure that Milton Keynes Council can prepare itself for more waves of COVID-19 and other future pandemics.

    They’ve agreed to set up a  “COVID-19 task and finish group” to look into how Milton Keynes Council can learn the lessons of what’s happened so far and how they can improve their response.

    “The council was caught without an awful lot being done,” said Cllr Peter Geary (Cons, Olney) at Tuesday’s meeting of the scrutiny management committee.

    “I never heard about pandemic planning being done in this council before. I know there was some round using the ice rink for mortuary space.

    “We ought to be learning lessons from this pandemic for the next pandemic.”

    And he added: “It’s certainly going to be happening again at some time in the future.”

    Councillors said that the council had reacted well to the pandemic but wanted to learn lessons.

    Opposition leader Alex Walker (Con, Stantonbury) cautioned against looking back, at least not initially, when the focus has to be on preparing the council for the future.

    “I would caution against falling into the trap of looking back,” said  Cllr Walker. “And what will happen is that we will miss the here and now.”

    He said councillors risked “failing our responsibility to ensure the council is prepared for a second wave, potentially a third wave, who knows, or even minor spikes in infections.”

    The Conservatives have already pinpointed the way the council re-opened waste tips, and how they communicated advice to certain age groups as areas where they need to learn lessons.

    Scrutiny management committee chairman Keith McLean (Cons, Olney) praised Milton Keynes which he said was in “a good position” compared to other areas. And he wants to support “positive initiatives”.

    More than 300 people are believed to have died of covid-19 in the city so far in this pandemic, and the council’s network of scrutiny committees will be delving into the wider impact on the city. But this new committee will be able to bring the evidence together.

    The council has a network of scrutiny committees and all of them are going to be considering their specialist areas, which include health, the budget and the future of car parks and bus services.

    Cllr David Hopkins (Cons, Danesborough & Walton) has been selected to chair the group and he said: “There will be other pandemics to come, there is lots to learn.”

    Labour councillor Nigel Long (Bletchley West) praised the council leadership and he wants to compare how MK and other councils responded.

    Cllr Robin Bradburn (Lib Dem, Bradwell) said the council was heavily involved in the test and trace initiative and is preparing plans for protection against future outbreaks, as well as a recovery plan.

    Councillors urged the committee to be set up quickly.

    “If we can get this set up by the end of June, excuse my French, but that would be bloody great,” said Cllr McLean.

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