Experts appointed to help Wakefield's coronavirus fight

Experts have been appointed to a recovery board set up to help the district’s economy and the communities hit hardest by  the coronavirus.

Tuesday, 11th August 2020, 7:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 11th August 2020, 12:19 pm
Wakefield city centre

Wakefield Council announced the plan last month and has appointed Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Trade managing director Martin Hathaway to look at the economic recovery and Citizens Advice Bureau chief executive Simon Topham to look at the communities side.

Mr Topham will work alongside Maureen Cummings, the council’s cabinet member for environment, communities and poverty.

The council hopes that bringing in experience and expertise will give the district its strongest chance of success.

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Council leader Denise Jeffery said: “The leads bring with them a wealth of experience, knowledge and skills that will enable the recovery board to add real value and impact at a local level.”

The economic side will also look at skills, infrastructure, transport, and making our towns and cities carbon neutral. Mr Hathaway said: “Providing businesses and their employees with the support they need will be vital during this period of economic recovery.”

The resident recovery work will work with the voluntary and community sectors.

Mr Topham said: “Our hope is that no resident dealing with long-term health, employment, debt or housing issues as a result of the crisis should feel alone and that we jointly build an open, accessible and sympathetic support structure for everyone.”

The recovery board currently includes representatives from Wakefield Council, West Yorkshire Police, West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue, Wakefield CCG, Department for Work and Pensions, Wakefield College, Mid Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce, and other organisations.

New cases of coronavirus in Wakefield are falling, the district’s director of public health has said, after other parts of West Yorkshire were put under new restrictions by the government.

Between July 20 and July 26 the positive case rate has decreased to 13 positive.

People in Calderdale, Bradford and Kirklees, which shares an administrative border with Wakefield, have been banned from visiting other households after a surprise announcement by Health Secretary Matt Hancock last Thursday.

The government said the move was made in response to figures showing Covid cases were climbing in those areas.

Anna Hartley, Wakefield Council’s director of public health, confirmed the rate of infection was not as high in Wakefield as other places.

At the start of last week, the council had predicted there would be an “improvement” in the local situation, after a rise in the number of cases last month.

That was mainly linked to outbreaks in workplaces such as Forza Foods in Normanton and at Urban House – a residential complex for asylum seekers.

At a meeting the council’s chief legal officer Gillian Marshall was asked if Wakefield was in “good stead” to cope with a potential second wave.

She said: “Absolutely.

“What we hope to have is a plan ready for all the various scenarios that may come forward in the winter.

“We obviously hope there won’t be, but a second wave is something we are preparing for.”

She said the council was still working through new powers handed down by government to all local authorities, which will allow them to close premises and cancel events to address spikes.

However, the district remains classed an “area of concern”, meaning its case figures are being scrutinised closely.