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Public computers in council offices 'risk spreading Covid', meeting told

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A council has refused to reintroduce computers for public use, because they could pose a Covid infection risk.

At a Thursday meeting of West Norfolk Council, independent councillor Alexandra Kemp proposed a motion to bring computers for public use back to the council’s King’s Court offices.

She warned that West Norfolk was at a particularly high risk of “digital exclusion” and asked that “just one or two” of the six computers which used to be there be reintroduced.

King's Court. Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk.. (40512070)
King's Court. Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk.. (40512070)

The council’s Conservative leader Stuart Dark said his party could not support it.

He explained that removing the computers had nothing to do with funds.

“It was safety concerns, not only for staff, but mainly for users, around having computers in a public space that other people are using before you,” said Mr Dark.

“The decision was taken to remove them until the infection rates reduced and it was safe to do so [reintroduce them].

“Everybody will be aware, from the updates that they’ve had from the QEH [Queen Elizabeth Hospital], our infection rates aren’t safe for us to do that at the moment.”

He added that there was nowhere for the computers to go, because computers used by the Department of Work and Pensions, who also use the building, have taken up more room due to social distancing.

A phone line has however been installed in the building so that people in need of help from the council, without the use of their own phone or computer, could be put through to the council’s information centre directly.

The reception in King’s Court was reopened in May of this year, and since then, Mr Dark said, some 80 to 100 people had come in every week to access council services.

“Of those, only one person has asked to use those self-service computers and that person was helped by the telephone,” he said.

As soon as the Covid rates have gone down, the computers will go back, he repeated.

The council’s Labour group leader, Charles Joyce, said it was an example of Covid being “blamed for everything”.

Miss Kemp said it was easy to wipe down a computer and pointed out that the libraries have public-access computers.

“To put this in the ‘too difficult’ box is just wrong,” she said, before the motion was defeated.

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