Older councillors wrestle with coronavirus restrictions

Eight councillors face a frustrating few months working from home because they are over 70.

The move follows advice from the government, set out by Health Secretary Matt Hancock in the House of Commons on Monday (16 March).

It affects six Conservatives and two Labour councillors out of the 54 members of Brighton and Hove City Council.

One of them, Conservative councillor Dawn Barnett, 78, said that she visited people in her ward – Hangleton and Knoll – every day.

Councillor Barnett said: “We are all fit and healthy and capable people. This is going to be very difficult.

“There is a lot of work you can do on a computer but a lot of the time I go and visit my residents at home.

“There’s not many days when I don’t have a home visit to go to – and then you’ve got your surgery when people come to you.

“Most days as a councillor, myself and the others, not a day goes by when I don’t have a house to visit.”

At the moment, she said, she would carry on until she had to stay at home.

She was concerned for those who found it challenging to get around or who had issues that required a personal visit.

Councillor Barnett said that there was a lot of social housing in Hangleton and Knoll, adding: “Most of the issues are with social housing, with people downsizing or needing a bigger house.

“There’s damp or the kitchen is in a bad way … When people want to show me specifically the problem they have, I need to go there.

“I might go to somebody and their kitchen doors are hanging off. You can see it’s been there from day one and they need a new kitchen.

“Or the bathroom needs fixing and there’s water flooding from upstairs. You need to see these issues.

“They haven’t told me I have to stop yet. That day has not actually come.”

Councillor Dawn Barnett

Today (Thursday 19 March) senior councillors agreed to operate a reduced programme of meetings over the coming six months.

And even when the full council is due to meet, it is likely that numbers will be limited to just 14 out of the 54 members of the council.

  1. Nick Reply

    This does show the important and often unglamorous/unpublicised work that many of the councillors from all parties do week in week out

    I think it would be worth considering using Skype or similar to help at the moment. You can still see the issues – ask to be shown damp etc, speak/see each other. Not as good as being there, but very close. I had a video call with a vet for a dog injury and it worked very well – they were able to ask questions, show/test things. Very impressive

    At these times, with risks of infection for all, skype etc should work for most of these visits

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