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Ceredigion’s Covid ‘Gold Command’ to finally transfer decision making back to elected representatives

04 Apr 2022 3 minute read
Picture by Cwmcafit (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Katy Jenkins, local democracy reporter

Operational decisions at Ceredigion council transferred to a group of top officers and senior members during the pandemic will return to authority control, it has been announced.

There was some criticism of the use of ‘Gold Command’ to make urgent covid-19 related decisions following a decision of full council in March 2020 to allow delegated powers.

Ceredigion Senedd Member Elin Jones an MP Ben Lake had been among those calling for the ‘Gold Command’ to surrender their power as the pandemic eased.

Ceredigion County Council chief executive Eifion Evans and a leadership group of senior councillors and officers made more than a thousand decisions during lockdowns, reopening and the move towards a return to normal.

A council spokesman has said that there was no longer a requirement for the gold command structure – under the ‘Civil Contingencies’ act -following the removal of covid-19 restrictions and the move from “pandemic to endemic.”

“Welsh Government has announced we are now in a transition phase from pandemic to endemic. As we move beyond the emergency response phase to COVID-19, there is no longer a requirement to facilitate a Gold Command structure,” she said.

The last set of published decision made by the group are for February 2022 and include endorsing the approach to traffic changes in some towns, continuing arrangements for support to care homes, agreeing proposals to revert to local decision making framework for schools from the half term, continuing mask use in public council settings and the need for a “supportive process” for some staff involved in contact tracing following changes to arrangements.

A wide range of covid related decisions were made under the delegated powers, without the full input of councillors, including the setting-up of the safe zones in town centres across the county, and the reintroduction of parking fees.

‘Democratic control’

There had been a call to return to full authority involvement following the move to alert level zero late last year but the decision was made that “Gold Command will continue to operate for the time being to make operational COVID-19 related decisions.”

The council has previously stated: “The cabinet does not feel that there is a democratic deficit in the current system as weekly meetings between the cabinet and senior officers have continued throughout the pandemic.”

Ceredigion Senedd Member Elin Jones revealed last August that she and the county’s MP Ben Lake have both written twice to Ceredigion County Council Leader Ellen ap Gwynn asking her to “resume democratic control in Ceredigion.

“For the record both Ben Lake MP and I have written twice to the Council’s Leader asking her to resume democratic control in Ceredigion as the legislation allows and other neighbouring Councils have long done,” said MS Elin Jones on social media.

“Currently powers are delegated by the Leader to officers until the end of August and can then be restored to all elected Ceredigion councillors.

“We believe that both officers and councillors in Ceredigion have worked tirelessly to protect our communities throughout the past 18 months, but at alert level zero, then usual democratic practices should resume.

“This pandemic may be with us for many more months, even years, and we must now deal with it within our established democratic structures”

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