Islington Council prepares coronavirus emergency response team

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, speaking at a Fair Futures Commission meeting at Ar

Cllr Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council, speaking at a Fair Futures Commission meeting at Arts and Media School Islington. Photo by Em Fitzgerald - Credit: Archant

An emergency response team, last used in the wake of the Finsbury Park terror attack, is being launched by Islington Council to manage the “worst case scenario” of the coronavirus outbreak.

Following the government’s gradual expansion of social distancing measures the week, a small team of officers, separate from normal departmental work, are being prepared to man computers and phones, and plans are being drawn up to ensure the transport and social services are able to continue running.

Labour councillor Angela Picknell said such a team is “always ready in the event of a major incident.”

“In the present situation, it’s [the emergency response team] focus is to keep the council’s responsibilities fulfilled and essential services running, and to respond to critical need in the event that many officers and council workers should be ill or self-isolating,” she said.

Depending on the severity of the situation, a lead officer will decide on priorities and action necessary.

Asked about the safety of councillors and other workers in light of social distancing advice, Cllr Picknell, who represents St Mary’s ward, said leader Cllr Richard Watts and other executive members and senior offers were still “meeting regularly with officers, employee unions and emergency services”.

Regular council committees and meetings are under review, though the executive and planning meetings will continue with less people.

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However, Labour’s Cllr Alice Perry, who represents St Peter’s, questioned whether councillors should be going in to work, tweeting: “Half of Councillors are over 65. Many younger councillors have health conditions that make them higher risk for #COVID19. Certain council meetings do need to go ahead (at least for now), but can we please start using technology more to reduce the risk the public and each other?”

London Assembly member Caroline Russell, and Green Party councillor for Highbury East, agreed and tweeted: “The tech exists and would allow people self isolating (who are well) to participate in democratic process and live-streaming of virtual council meetings would allow public scrutiny too.”

The council said it was looking into introducing remote meetings.

Councillor advice surgeries have also been cancelled until further notice.

View the council’s coronavirus page here.

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