After the events of last week, this week saw another interesting and busy week take place in Westminster. On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to take part in two Westminster Hall Debates; one on the use of modelling during Covid-19 and the other, somewhat topically, on the cost of oil and gas.
As I said in the debate on modelling, clearly, we cannot predict the future, but we can prepare for it. Traditional crisis management and risk management list the possible things that might happen and look at the severity and the likelihood and based on that we produce several models. That is the old way of doing it.
The modern way of doing it, instead of creating models, is to create a playbook—a mechanism by which we can look at all the challenges that might face a country and at least put in place a mechanism for dealing with the crisis, whatever it is.
We very much went down the model route, and took out of our kit bag, the one we had for flu. It was too rigid, did not fit and was too slow. The assumptions were not challenged; the real-world evidence was not incorporated; and, worse, we limited how we looked at modelling absolutely to covid. We looked at the mortality of covid and the impact; we looked at the morbidity of covid and the impact, but we should have looked instead and as well at the impact of the crisis as a whole and the proposed solutions, including the lockdown and other restrictive measures, across the country, across society and across the economy.
The Government were challenged on this at the time, but we were told that it was ‘too hard’; we could not possibly do any modelling with regard to the mortality of lockdown and restrictions, the morbidity of lockdown and restrictions, or the economic impact. That was sadly relegated to second order, but we should never forget that there is a huge interaction between wealth and health.
At last, we are looking at the impact, not just on covid patients and those vulnerable to covid, but on those patients not subject to high risk for covid. We are looking at the impact on children’s life chances, not just on their education, as it is far more serious than just their education. We are beginning to look at the impact on society and communities and, at last, the economy.
Forecasting and modelling have a valuable place, but we must never forget that they are tools in a larger arsenal.
Last week, my team and I held one of our regularly scheduled calls with business leaders across the constituency as well as the town councils to discuss business related matters that are of concern to them. Having met with this group frequently from the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been an invaluable source of information sharing and problem solving across the patch.
Amongst the various issues that have been discussed, the continued delay by the Local Government department in making a decision on whether to allow virtual council meetings again is having a real impact. Whilst there were invariably certain technical issues to overcome to begin with, there is no reason, other than needing to amend the law, why virtual council meetings shouldn’t be allowed to happen.
The reality is that by having virtual meetings, it allows those who would otherwise be unable to commit to meetings, due to accessibility reasons, time constraints or other reasons to be able to take part in local democracy. A richer diversity in decision making benefits all of us. I therefore wholeheartedly support our local councils in lobbying to return to the option of having virtual participation and have once again raised the issue with the relevant Minister.
If you would like to book a surgery appointment or raise a specific issue, please call my office on 01626 368277 or email firstname.lastname@example.org