Chris Read slams Matt Hancock for blaming councils in pandemic response

COUNCIL leader Chris Read accused former health secretary Matt Hancock of blaming councils for the government’s own failings after the reality TV contestant criticised local authorities over their pandemic preparations.

Mr Hancock told the Covid inquiry on Tuesday that councils’ readiness for the national crisis had been “wholly inadequate”.

The disgraced former minister who resigned in 2021 was questioned about the Department of Health and Social Care’s capacity to deal with the demands of a pandemic.

He said he “did not have the levers” to act on local preparations.

Mr Hancock said it had been down to councils to ensure their care homes were in a position to cope.

He said he had been told all councils needed to have ”pandemic preparedness plans”, adding: “I asked to see them and my minister for social care Helen Whately found there were only two, which she saw and reported to me that they were wholly inadequate.

“Whilst I had the title secretary of state for health and social care the primary responsibilities fell to local councils, in a national crisis this is a very significant problem.

“I didn’t have the levers to act.”

RMBC leader Cllr Read hit back, saying the government had repeatedly cut council budgets.

“This government decided early on that it was easy enough to blame councils for their failings, and Mr Hancock’s comments seem to be the latest attempt to pull that trick,” he said.

“Time and again during the pandemic it was apparent that senior figures in government did not know how social care is organised in this country.

“They could not comprehend that councils both commission services and provide them directly, or that ‘social care’ means more than just care homes for the elderly.

“Councils like ours rallied round, ensuring PPE reached services, offering support to social care providers who were often in desperate situations, and had our own staff operating on the frontline with residents who needed help the most.”