Covid-19 Archive

Podcast script - Saturday, May 23, 2020

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Good Morning Chelveston, Caldecott and Chelston Rise itís Saturday 23rd May and this is Adrian Dale with the daily podcast.

Firstly Iíd like to wish my dear Mother-in-Law, Inez, a happy 78th birthday. Sheís going to marmalise me for revealing her age, but the way this lock down is going, it could be weeks before we are allowed to see her again. And so with luck, sheíll have mellowed, or even better, completely forgotten. And I may even live to tell the tale again.

Sadly this is being repeated across the Country everyday, as families are prevented from seeing loved ones on special days. The wonders of technology do allow us to stay in touch but it isnít the same as making a fuss and giving someone a hug.

I had high hopes that the next lock down review would release us further, but I canít see that happening now with the developments we are seeing daily. Apparently over half of the under 30 year olds are now flouting the rules and are ignoring social distancing. There will be consequences for us all.

Now yesterday, we had a surprising technical challenge which prevented several people getting at the podcast at around 10:20. I was grass cutting and didnít hear the pings of complaint in my ear until 10:30. When I investigated, I found that the Council had run out of bandwidth, only 3 weeks into the month.

There has been a surge in website demand this month. So many people have been downloading podcasts and photos that our monthly limits were exceeded.

We also had a technical problem last month with a cyber attack that took us off the air for nearly a day. I was able to sort out a temporary solution for everyone by 7:30am, whilst Mark got our service provider to sort things out. However, we always review and learn from each issue.

This time round, I was pre-authorised to contact the service provider quickly myself and establish a solution. I was then able to call in Mark to pay the bill. All was resolved in 1 hour 20mins at a cost of under £30.00. Mark used his emergency discretionary powers to make the payment, but with the wonders of technology the first email of retrospective authorisation from councillors came in within 10 minutes.

Now thatís how you manage a crisis. Clear communications protocols, clear lines of authority, but with discretionary powers at the right levels to get things done quickly.

Yesterday I was very critical of the Governmentís handling of this crisis. Many people agreed with me. Some suggested that it might be political incompetence and that a different Government might have done better. Sadly, I disagree. I donít think that any party could have done better, it is the system that has failed us.

We elect an MP to represent our views in Parliament. Their only qualifications are that they arenít felons (and sometimes even that fails) and that they think like the majority of their electorate. Unfortunately, the vagaries of our system of government mean that some of these inexperienced and unqualified people then end up in office running big departments about which they know nothing.

And then, even worse, one of them ends up running the Country. How is that even remotely sensible?

What are their collective qualifications or experiences in crisis management? Zilch I am afraid. You would hope that the permanent officials would guide them but clearly something is going wrong.

When I became a senior manager in Unilever, one of our first pieces of training was in crisis management and crisis communications. They brought in the Andrew Marr equivalent back in the 1990s, who interviewed us relentlessly on camera in front of our colleagues. Weíd been given a briefing sheet just minutes before and had to study it quickly and be ready to answer on camera. He tore us to shreds until we learned the skills. The key was honesty and openness. If we didnít know something we had to say so, but we had to explain what processes were in place to find out. We promised only that which we were certain of. We asked for patience and support from those watching and promised to update people consistently and regularly. And we explained the big picture, with the aim of reassuring that someone competent and compassionate was in charge. This training worked and has never left me.

I have worked for many of the English Police Forces over the years and became very familiar with their incident management system. It is based on a three level command structure. Bronze command, Silver command and Gold Command, each more senior and more strategic. This system is actually covered in basic training for every police constable.

If a young PC is first on the scene of an incident then they immediately become the initial Bronze Commander, trained to take stock, marshall resources and alert more senior commanders in a well rehearsed process. If it is clear that the incident will become a major one, then a whole cascade of defined processes kicks in. I have been part of several emergency service operations in the Parish and it is truly impressive to watch. For the big tyre fires we had a mobile silver command post deployed a mile from the fire. It was important that the silver commanders from each service were not too close to the action. They needed to see the bigger picture. And then back at base was a Gold Commander responsible for dealing with the outside world.

Weíve used the same three level principles in the management of the Covid-19 emergency in this Parish. Why re-invent the wheel? There is a tried and trusted command process for running any emergency.

I think this is whatís bothering me about the Government response. I can see no evidence of structure, no evidence of the Gold Commander standing back and saying where are we going and why. Nor the Silver Commanders saying so what exactly do we need to do to get there. All I see is the most senior people apparently briefing us on the latest knee jerk brainwave dreamt up in a back room.

Yesterdayís bonkers idea was an immunity passport, to allow people who have had the illness freedom to do anything. Who can see the loop holes and flaws in that then?

Our plan for the Village is to keep on plodding on, maintaining community spirit, checking everyone is still OK, and with communication lines in place that mean we can respond to any unexpected development very quickly.

And so far so good.

Thank you