Gwynne column: 'Council staff deserve recognition'

In his latest column, Denton MP Andrew Gwynne heaps praise on the "wonderful" council workers in Tameside for their response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Key workers come in many shapes and forms, and every Thursday I’m proud to join thousands of you applauding them for all that they do, whether in hospitals, care homes, shops or elsewhere.

There is one group of key workers, however, who I think have often been forgotten or overlooked during this crisis and that’s our council workers. 

Coronavirus has posed a massive challenge to local councils across England. After a decade of deep cuts from central government, our councils are now on the frontline of dealing with this crisis.

Luckily, here in Tameside, our council has really risen to the challenge right from the very start. Council staff were quickly redeployed to key areas, notably the fantastic humanitarian hub in Dukinfield which has helped nearly 2,100 people in around 1,400 households.

Staff from across the council worked at the hub to pack and deliver over 2,000 food parcels, and the dedicated call line has handled over 5,000 phone calls in the last six weeks. Council staff have worked with GPs, pharmacists and welfare staff to support everybody.

Tameside Council has also done fantastic work supporting our business community. Council staff worked back-to-back weekends, including over the Easter holiday, to make sure eligible businesses got the grants that they needed.

Implementing this scheme is not easy and I’m proud of how well Tameside Council has managed it – this support is vital to ensure that the local businesses that we all rely on can make it through this crisis.

Our refuse and recycling team also deserves a special mention. Whilst bin collections in many parts of the country have experienced major disruption, Tameside Council has managed to continue collections of all our bins throughout the crisis. Thank you to everyone involved in keeping these services going! 

In fact, it’s testament to the effectiveness of Tameside Council’s response to coronavirus that, unlike in other boroughs, many people won’t have noticed much disruption over this period and this is all thanks to our wonderful council staff. 

There are tough times ahead for our local councils as they have to deliver more and more services whilst receiving less and less funding.

Unfortunately, the Government have found that they can cut this funding and let councils take the blame for changes to services. This crisis has been a reminder of the vital work that our council does for us and emphasises the importance of giving local government the funding it needs. 

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