Wakefield's councillors pull together to help district through coronavirus pandemic
Less than a month ago, Wakefield’s decision-makers were gearing up for one of the most intriguing rounds of local elections in recent years.
But just a few weeks and an international crisis later, priorities could not be more different.
The elections are off and councillors who’d been planning to stand down in May have been persuaded to stay on, in the interests of stability.
Conservative opposition chief Nadeem Ahmed, has forged a truce with Labour leader Denise Jeffery .
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Councillor Les Shaw backs the truce.
He said: “It’s going to be a long time before we get back on track.
“If we’re pulling together now I think that’s a positive. I think for the first few months after this is all over it will be like that.
“I think the crisis has brought out the good in people. We’ve been talking to our neighbours a lot and they’ve offered to bring us any shopping we need.”
Independent councillor Ian Womersley, who won his Hemsworth seat last year is still communicating with the local public, both directly and on social media.
“One of my biggest concerns is that I’m getting a lot of messages reporting people, mainly the younger generation, who aren’t taking self-isolation seriously and are still going out.
“These people are either very, very selfish or they genuinely just don’t care and it does concern me because we’ve not been put in lockdown for the hell of it.”
South Elmsall councillor Steve Tulley has played his part and along with ward colleague Michelle Collins, having helped constituents caught up in the Next warehouse controversy last week.
“As a local community we’ve been getting meals out and about from the Westfield Centre to the vulnerable and elderly,” Coun Tulley says.
“My wife works in the intensive care unit at Pinderfields Hospital so I have to be particularly careful because I’m more at risk of spreading than other people. It’s our job nationally that we don’t make the NHS’ job any harder by putting more people at risk.”
Pontefract councillor David Jones is chair of Wakefield’s children and young people scrutiny committee, is concerned by reports of a spike in domestic violence since lockdown.
“There’s been a surge nationally, so we have to make sure that our children are as well protected as they can be.”
“On other issues there’s quite a lot of questions coming in from people. It’s difficult to keep up with because it’s changing, “(It’s a) strange feeling because you’re acting as a go between and responding to cries for help and clarity on government decisions.”
Coronavirus may have caused the biggest disruption to public life since 1945, but for local councillors work of one kind or another goes on.