Julian McGhee-Sumner candidate for Wescott writes:
The covid pandemic has tested us all in the Wokingham community and changed everyone’s lives.
Conservative-led Wokingham Borough Council has been conscious throughout of the need to be proactive and look after every resident.
Within a week of the pandemic starting, all the key players from the voluntary sector were brought together to work with the council. This led to the WBC One Front Door system with the CAB, the friendship and support calls from the Link, prescription runs from the Wokingham Volunteer Centre and the Food Hub with First Days.
Our residents were amazing and many volunteered, as I did, to do whatever they could to help.
Our council acted swiftly to protect residents. When the supply of PPE via central government broke down WBC purchased its own directly from suppliers.
Faced with several large care home outbreaks an investigation found all could be traced to discharges from the Royal Berks Hospital. We lobbied MPs and the NHS to instigate immediate Covid tests for all discharges.
However, with no firm commitment of change, we put our residents first and refused to accept any hospital discharges into care homes without negative covid tests. The Conservative -led council here were 4 weeks ahead of every other council in the country in taking this key step to stop the spread of Covid.
We set up a specialist care homes task force to support our borough’s 53 care homes. Visiting every home regularly, they ensure the highest possible infection control procedures are in place, and support and train staff.
We have now moved onto our covid recovery plan.
Testing One of the first councils in Berkshire to set up lateral flow testing centres, we now have 3 centres: at Thames Valley Business Park, in Sindlesham and in Wokingham, and 4 mobile testing vans travelling across the borough making this service accessible to all. And anyone can collect tests from our centres to use at home.
Vaccination Support The Conservative-led council has worked with local GPs from the start to help vaccinate residents as quickly as possible. We have provided buildings for use as vaccination centres, staff so medical professionals can focus on their key roles and (with our partners at the Wokingham Volunteer Centre) provided an army of volunteers to help run testing centres.
Loneliness We are concerned that many people spent huge periods of the last 12 months isolating at home with little social contact. We are helping their return to normal lives. Our staff and our colleagues at the Link have made over 5000 phone calls to those at home over the last 12 months to support and befriend them.
Mental Heath We are very aware of the toll the pandemic has taken on the mental health of our residents and we have brought forward plans for an advanced mental health support service. MIND is opening a new office in Wokingham and will be working with GPs across the borough.
Business Support These are incredibly challenging times for businesses of all sizes, and the information can often be hard to understand and digest. Our council has proactively contacted local businesses to make them aware of the financial help that is available. Over £40m has been paid out to help businesses survive and recover.
None of the above would be possible without well run council finances.
WBC has faced unprecedented financial pressure this year but thanks to sensible Conservative management has been able to weather the storm and retain significant reserves.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we need a Conservative-led council that can support our recovery and ensure that our borough continues to be a great place to live, work, learn and do business.