SUNDERLAND’S Labour leader has called on the Government to provide greater transparency and a more localised approach, to ensure the city beats COVID-19.

In a letter to UK Government, Councillor Graeme Miller has urged Ministers to work hand-in-hand with local councils – who he believes are uniquely equipped to react to spikes in the illness – to ensure that new COVID-19 cases can be tested, tracked and traced effectively.

He said: “We’ve seen growing criticism of the Government on its track and trace system, and I think that is borne out of total frustration and desperation.

“We all want to see this country beat COVID-19 and the Government has to find the most efficient, effective ways of enabling us to return to some normality. Testing, tracking and tracing is absolutely essential if we are going to achieve that, and I am very clear that the most effective way of delivering that is to arm local councils with more data and insight that will enable them to isolate cases of COVID-19 and protect people.

“The Government has said it sees a key role for Local Authorities in test, track and trace, but it is time to follow that through by sharing meaningful data and insight that can allow us to do our job.”

In correspondence sent on behalf of the leader today, Councillor Miller sets out a need for Government to share much more detailed data with the council, which would enable the local authority to communicate with people on a hyper-local basis.

“We know the Government has data at its disposal that would identify areas of the city where COVID is prevalent, insight we could then use to communicate with those localities and keep people safe. It is nonsensical that we are working blind, with only insight into how many cases exist across the city. We need to be empowered to support, something we are not only willing and able, but absolutely uniquely placed to do.”

As well as access to details of Coronavirus hotspots in the city, the council leader is calling for a more localised approach to testing, with the council supporting with accessible community hubs and working with local labs, to enable better reach and quicker results, and therefore action.

The Government’s current national testing approach is delivered through a commercial partner, with no role for local councils and health services to help shape and direct these crucial efforts.

“This is not about politics. It’s about what is right and sensible to manage a crisis that the whole country is united in its efforts to beat.

“We will do everything in our power to limit the future impact of COVID-19 in Sunderland and we believe local authorities have a central role to play in this fight and that the Government should support and empower them to do this.

“We can take pride in what has been achieved during recent months against a backdrop of increased demand on services and the challenging circumstances in which we have had to deliver those vital services in the city. However, there is still much for us to do. We have demonstrated that we have the ability and willingness to deliver in order to get through this crisis, and to save lives by working together with Government. It’s time they worked with us in that spirit too.”