This meeting doesn’t need much of an introduction, as it was very short both on time and content. It would have been quite a bit longer, of course, if we’d have been privy to the discussions of the upcoming work programme. As Cllr John Leech (West Didsbury) pointed out, none of the content of the discussion needs to be confidential, so maybe (definitely) it’s time to break this convention and invite the public into the discussion. We could then see if the recommendations within the open letter that CEM collated from local groups has been seriously taken into account (link).
The meeting was swiftly opened by the brand new chair Councillor Joanne Green (Harpurhey). The usual drill – urgent business (none), appeals (none), interests (none), minutes (approved). This followed on to the only public piece of this meeting, the COVID-19 update, delivered by David Regan. The broad headlines are that cases are low (currently 62 per 100,000 people, compared to around 500 per 100,00 for Bolton) but increasing, and that no people died of COVID-19 in Manchester last week. Last week also had the highest number of vaccinations in one week, but it is still a very volatile situation with plenty of challenges for a council that is the 6th most deprived local authority in the country with a very young population (so plenty are yet to be vaccinated).
Cllr Green opened to questions on this piece, with questions on vaccination rollout and the details of statistics asked and answered. The most notable moment here was the contribution from Cllr Zahid Hussain, who is new to the council representing Levenshulme ward and to this scrutiny committee. He asked a number of searching and detailed questions on the statistics provided by David Regan and what needs to be looked into, which I would expect will make up a significant part of the upcoming work programme. This included if enough is being translated into future post-COVID implications to mortality and life expectancy as well as issues with do not resuscitate orders. It was a good moment of scrutiny, albeit one where the answer was mostly ‘we are monitoring that, yes’, and I would love to see this verve for scrutiny continually applied across the council.
Finally, the new Executive Member for Health and Care, Cllr Joanna Midgley (Chorlton Park), briefly spoke to summarise the piece, highlighting the volatility of the situation and future health effects of COVID-19, both mental and physical. Cllr Green then called for the overview report to be taken as read in order to move on to excluding the public and discussing the work programme. Cllr Leech, as mentioned, asked why the meeting must be closed to the public, and the Committee Officer Lee Walker answered that as per convention, the meeting formally ends and an informal conversation begins. I’m not sure that’s really an answer but there you go. After just under an hour, the meeting closed.