Opinion with county councillor Karen Constantine: Heading into the second Covid ‘lockdown’

Cllr Karen Constantine

Councillor Karen Constantine (Labour Party) is one of two Ramsgate representatives at Kent County Council

We finally have a second lockdown. It’s got to be safety first. It’s time now to do whatever you can to stay safe and to heed the public health advice.

Lockdown has been put in place to stop Covid transmission and to prevent sickness and death. Capacity in the NHS must be protected as our hospitals could be overwhelmed. No one wants that. And whilst during the first lockdown we rightly clapped our appreciation for all our frontline workers, nurses, postman, shop workers and carers etc this second lock down is harder on them. They are, like us, tired, stressed and worried. So let’s try and look after to each other as best we can during these difficult times.

Many of us are critical of the Government, saying it’s too little too late. There are certainly many questions to be answered about the delay and the apparent lack of planning.

SAGE offered the Government advice to implement a 2-3 week circuit breaker on September 21. Their expert advice went unheeded. Every slide shown during the latest announcement illustrated the fact that this steep upward trend began at the start of September and was ignored. Doubtless this wilful blindness has ensured the measures now in place are longer and harsher.

Many experts are saying an earlier lockdown to coincide with half term would have been more effective. Many teachers, the teaching unions and parents are concerned about keeping schools open. I am too. Many too have lost confidence in the government which has displayed brazen double standards.

The pre-planned end of the Furlough scheme will have already cost people their jobs and despite the rather Scrooge-like one month’s extension, earlier action could have prevented at least some of this job loss misery. And still, despite promises to address their plight, many self-employed workers are caught in a poverty trap, receiving little or no support. No clarity for the future.

All of this uncertainty is lead to the predicted rise in unemployment. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) is predicting 4 million. Others are expecting an even higher toll.

We saw our Government display shambolic planning. They have consistently contradicted all the scientific advice, ignored the calls for better support for workers and employers, failed to a deliver test and trace service, and haven’t provided anywhere near sufficient support to those in our communities that need it most.

Boris Johnson has finally lost any shred of the already threadbare authority he ever had. Whilst the rest of Europe has calmly set about long-term Covid protections for people and businesses, our PM has spaffed away billions of pounds and with it any hope of effective management of the crisis in the UK.

The consequences of this will be devastating and whilst this crisis was always going to be costly to deal with, these financial pressures have been exacerbated greatly by gross mismanagement and misspending. And we still have Brexit to deal with.

The latest plans are so poor, so hastily assembled that the police and others are gravely concerned.

What we need now is a laser focus on short and medium term planning.

This should include:

No further cuts to Council funding. But an increase across the board so that councils like KCC can concentrate on the BAU, ‘business as usual’ statutory services, such as public health, social and elder care, and keeping libraries and sure start centres etc open.

Immediate measures to protect and rehouse the homeless.

A longer term job furlough scheme, emulating those in France, Germany and Spain which are in place until the end of 2021. At 80%, capped at £2,500 per month.

Adequate support for the self employed. 40% instead of the current 20%. Until the end of 2021.

A ban on benefit sanctions.

Universal Credit payments paid within a week of a claim submitted.

The additional £20 UC ‘boost’ to be extended until the end of 2021.

The mortgage payment holiday to be continued on a no fault basis.

Free School meals for all children complemented in poorer wards with across to others essentials including computers and data packages.

Pregnant women are able to be accompanied by partners for scans and labour.

Additional funding to online and telephone mental health support services.

Ringfenced support paid monthly to food banks to aid effective planning.

15 Comments

  1. Once again Cllr Karen Constantine hits the nail on the head about the Government’s failings and has targeted and practical proposals for improving the plight of Thanet people in these dire current circumstances.

    • And, in my opinion, if any of the local parties cared about the people of Thanet, they would have a controlling majority on the council. As with all politicians, they can always do better, especially when they are in opposition.

    • County Councillor Constantine. Your comments and proposals noted! Easy when you can sit on the opposition benches taking no responsibility for demanding this and that. A few weeks ago you were calling for more zebra crossings! When you had the chance to be in a ruling Labour group you deserted your colleagues and ran off because and I quote from kent online the budget had caused her ‘real consternation’ and ‘she felt out’ of step with her own group so she felt she should resign. That bodes well if you are re elected to the County Council next May and Labour form an administration or are part of a minority administration. Are you going to run off then because you cannot agree your Groups budget?

      • For fullness. I let my colleagues know that I couldn’t continue at TDC. I had other issues to deal with too. Like my husband becoming seriously ill. I was out of step with some of my TDC colleagues on some issues, it’s not unusual for double hatters to experience this. Parking charges in Ramsgate being one example. I also knew a by-election could be called very quickly and we had very good candidates who could fill my shoes. The by-election was called quickly but then sadly cancelled on the eve of the vote due to Covid restrictions. Since then I can confirm that I pretty much work tirelessly on a full range of County issues. I’m gravely concerned about the potential budget cuts at KCC. And the impact on services for Thanet residents. Being on the health committee you might well imagine how demanding that is. Contact me privately if you have other questions pls?

        • And none of your TDC Labour colleagues knew you were under TDC Standards process which had to end when you jumped ship ?

          You chose to conceal Thanet toxic environmental hazards to health from High Court. You chose to conceal the hazards from King Ethelberts where you were indoctrinating young mins in the ill informed politics of protest.

          You countinue your concealments at KCC and in your position on COVID. The toxic forever chemical “PFOA” (Firefighting foam residue) has risks of lowered immunity and compromise of vaccines. The expert inquiry QEQM has, no thanks to Karen, scheduled research into Thanet toxic environmental and water supply borne hazards. PFOA and PCBs. Risks of foetal damage and foetal morbidity and pre-eclampsia.

  2. It’s amazing how many people have opinions on how things should be done better when they’re not in a position to implement or be accountable.

  3. Many highly qualified medical experts world wide are drawing attention to the extreme dangers of lockdowns – medical treatments not given, severe mental health issues and increased suicides, businesses ruined, any sense of community blown apart, a terrible environment for children and young people to exist in, particularly vulnerable children (and adults) etc. etc. Look at the Great Barrington Declaration, The Recovery group and now a group of UK mental health experts getting together to warn of the collateral damage, as just some examples of non Sage experts raising the alarm. I think any politician of any party advocating lockdown is shameful – they have clearly done little research. But I admire of those speaking out. This is not a party political thing. Starmer is also advocating the same removal of civil liberties. There will be accountability one day and that will be very interesting. But millions of lives will have been ruined in the meantime.

  4. Hate to burst your bubble, but long before Covid was a thing the mental health services have been laughable-people unable to get beds in facilities, people being given medicines who shouldn’t be on them-but we prescribe dangerous medication because it is quicker & cheaper than talking therapies etc.

    I know there is in recent years a huge celebrity lead desire for everybody to suffer from mental health issues & be a victim-but the reality is every human being has & will until the end of time face problems-it doesn’t mean you have mental health problems, it means you are somebody who experiences life/difficult situations & on the contrary, far from being mentally unwell has natural emotions & conflicts resulting from them.

    Seriously this thing has only been around for a matter of months, think of the kids during WW2 who were being shunted round the country to live with strangers who usually didn’t want them, were having bombs dropped near them on a regular basis, were rationed & often developing health problems from that etc, with zero entertainment to keep them occupied for 6 years-were they killing themselves? Much more work & money needs to be given to help people learn coping mechanisms & to toughen up-like the delicate ones who refuse & campaign against hearing different opinions & try to ‘cancel’ people/get them fired because they find them ‘offensive’ because life will always throw things at you & being offended & people not agreeing with you is a natural part of life.

    There is little sense of community & hasn’t been for decades-most people don’t know their neighbours. Afraid the alternative to a lockdown is doing nothing & seeing millions of people dying & millions more in hospital gravely ill & the NHS collapsing, businesses will go bust from staff & customers becoming ill/dying-so you can keep your civil liberties, because human life trumps paranoid conspiracy theories & halfwits moaning about having to wear a face covering in confined spaces with other people, 5G masts somehow defying the laws of science & spreading it etc.

  5. Rather than harping on about spending more money to support people during a lockdown, how about putting as much effort into policies that will keep lockdowns to a minimum.

    If people won’t wear a mask in a shop etc, then they get turfed out.
    If they have an exemption then they need to prove it.
    Pointless having so many restrictions that are ignored and yet there be effectively no sanctions.
    People have had 8 months to lose weight and get fitter, if they can’t be bothered then sorry it’s their own choice to suffer a bit more if they catch it, don’t let them clog up the nhs.
    Quite comical that nhs staff and the police are asked to turn off the track and trace app at work if they have it on their phone.

  6. Often the opinion section of this website is used by the witless to spout unsubstantiated speculation, pet theories of the weirdest kind, and their hatred of those who they consider enemies, especially women. This is called culture wars or identity politics, but it is nothing of the kind. If your culture envelopes racism, antisemitism and misogyny, it is not a culture worth discussing.
    Its perfectly reasonable to critique Cllr Constantine’s opinions, but do so in a way that shows that the person doing it has thought about the arguments and is using robust evidence to make their case.
    Cllr Constantine is in opposition. Oppositions oppose that’s their function. What is the point of an opposition if it does not call Govt, any form of Govt to account?
    The opposition did not oppose at the beginning of the pandemic and Govt was given a free hand. What did they do with their free hand? They failed to implement test, track and trace. They failed to heed SAGE. They were complicit in the NHS discharging old people from hospitals into care homes. They allowed the PPE situation to go critical. They failed to predict, plan and provide and now we are facing a second lockdown.
    This is not project fear, this is project fearful. Fearful of the consequences of their own actions.
    People who shout that the opposition could not do better, are running from the truth.

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