William Eichler 31 March 2023

Austerity undermined local response to COVID-19, study finds

Austerity undermined local response to COVID-19, study finds image
Image: Cryptographer/Shutterstock.com.

The hollowing-out of local capability by a decade of cuts left local government struggling to cope with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study says.

Published by Oxford University, the report says that by July 2020 the Government had set aside a national approach to the pandemic and began to rely on a more localised management of outbreaks.

However, English councils did not have the ‘infrastructure, capabilities, data or governance frameworks’ to execute a localised approach effectively because of the preceding decade of cuts.

The study, titled Crisis preparation in the age of long emergencies, also found that a lack of financial certainty for councils around funding for the extra costs incurred during the early stages of the pandemic undermined the local response.

The report also highlighted that a lack of trust from central Government in local capabilities – as was evident with the setting aside of local contact-tracing capabilities, for example – was also a problem.

‘Local capacity was not as strong as it needed to be, and where it existed, was not understood or properly valued centrally,’ according to the report.

The attempt at variable localised management of COVID-19 was destined to fail.’

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