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Coronavirus: Senior Norfolk councillor urges county not to let crisis 'go to waste'

A senior councillor has urged Norfolk not to “let a good crisis go to waste” during a discussion on the county’s response to coronavirus.

Bill Borrett, the county council’s cabinet member for public health, said the health service “achieved in a matter of days” what had been expected to take some years.

But he was criticised for his remarks by Labour group leader Steve Morphew, who said: “We mustn’t be too complacent.”

Norfolk County Council headquarters (3027764)
Norfolk County Council headquarters (3027764)

There have been a total of 484 confirmed deaths due to Covid-19 in Norfolk, up to July 10, with West Norfolk the worst affected, and councillors calling for an inquiry into the district’s 849 Covid cases.

Earlier this week, independent councillor Alexandra Kemp demanded an investigation during the first full council meeting to take place since lockdown.

Public health officials have said they are looking into the reasons for the higher concentration of cases in West Norfolk.

Bill Borrett Norfolk County Council. (39007927)
Bill Borrett Norfolk County Council. (39007927)

Mr Borrett was speaking during a scrutiny committee meeting, held yesterday, where councillors from all parties discussed the county’s response to the pandemic and the council’s support for vulnerable adults.

The Conservative member for Elmham and Mattishall, praised the work of organisations across the health service, and said a strategy of greater cohesion had helped to direct a speedy response.

He said: “If we hadn’t adopted that strategy I don’t think our response would have been as quick as it was.”

He added: “A lot of what we had planned to do and imagined would take some years to achieve has been achieved in a matter of days.

“What’s demonstrated here is that if we all work together we get much better, quicker outcomes for the people who use our services.

“The biggest piece of learning I would stress is holding on to the key positive issues that have come off – there’s a phrase and I don’t mean to be flippant and it’s not meant in a flippant way but – don’t let a good crisis go to waste.

“A lot of what’s not important gets thrown out of the window and we focus on the key jobs – if we can hold onto that.”

But Mr Morphew, chairman of the scrutiny committee, said: “I heard what you said but I think I’d probably put it another way.

“We mustn’t be too complacent and it’s worth remembering that an awful lot of people did get sick and we did lose a lot of people to the virus.

“We owe it to them that the lessons should be learnt and we make sure that we do avoid the second spike in their name.

“It’s a good opportunity to make sure that we do the right things.”

He added: “I was just making the language a little bit more empathetic for you.”

And Mr Borrett responded: “That was exactly what I meant.”

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