CHESHIRE East Council’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has been slammed by members – including one who warned the virus could lead to ‘five councillors less’.

Members of the council’s audit and governance committee discussed Covid-19 at Thursday’s meeting as CEC recognised the outbreak as a corporate risk.

And the very fact that councillors and officers were sat around the same table in Sandbach discussing the coronavirus at a public meeting was just one part of the criticism.

Cllr David Marren, independent member for Shavington, said: “I don’t see that this council is doing anything, to be honest.

“You walk through – there aren’t even things like gel pods around, we are all sat around this table when the advice is to be a metre away, and here we are all one foot away from each other.

“There is a training session on – I am not going to go to the training session tomorrow because the advice is that you should be doing the minimum that you have to.

Knutsford Guardian:

“I don’t see that this council is assessing this risk properly at all or showing me that it is doing anything.”

The committee was considering CEC’s most recent risk register, which was completed in January and rated the coronavirus outbreak with a score of eight out of 16 – meaning a moderate risk.

But members insisted the risk should be rated higher and called for measures to protect councillors, who in turn could provide support to their residents.

“I would have said it was significantly more than a moderate risk,” said Cllr Marren.

“Even the Prime Minister has said that up to 80 per cent of the population could be affected by this particular virus.

“What we’ve got in the UK so far, 1.3 per cent [mortality rate] of those affected, the maths would seem to say that at the end of this there will be one councillor less using my calculator.

“If you are looking at what is happening in Italy, you are looking at a mortality rate of nearly seven per cent, so that works out at five councillors less.”

Cllr Rachel Bailey, Conservative member for Audlem and CEC’s former leader, added: “Risk [assessment] needs to be as up to date as possible.

Knutsford Guardian:

“I do have to say it does not feel like this council is necessarily taking heed in the way that other councils are or indeed the Local Government Association.

“I have many isolated elderly residents in my ward who are concerned about coronavirus and are marooned because of other factors.

“I do feel that the councillor’s role in their ward is key and we need to feel able to support them.”

Officers moved to reassure the committee that CEC is monitoring the coronavirus outbreak and following the latest advice it is given.

Members were also told that CEC’s democratic services had also discussed measures to avoid the virus at meetings and had taken advice from the council’s public health leadership.

Jane Burns, executive director of corporate services, said: “Our emergency planning arrangements have been stood up.

“We are following Government advice, things are changing by the hour, we have updated our [internal CEC] information.

“We are looking at this on a very, very regular basis.”

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Sophie Thorley, corporate services business manager, added: “The advice is changing daily and we are monitoring, not just during working hours, we are checking in to see what is changing.

“We are taking all the advice – we are looking at the World Health Organisation, Public Health,”

The committee recommended that the risk of Covid-19 is upgraded to the highest level on the council’s risk register.

No cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in Cheshire East as of March 12.