COVID-19 policy-making, political and medico-scientific, has been top-down, whereas micro-implementation has eventually depended on practical local knowledge and resources: councils, schools, hospitals, surgeries, geography, infrastructure, networking, charities, volunteers. Consultation between National and Local levels was already habitually inadequate so even worse in a crisis. Volunteering a vivid example, where many on National database were never called, or were inefficiently involved, even after six months, in data-exchange, tracing, and home support; whereas most local volunteer groups were functioning fully and accurately within days, because of local community knowledge and funding.
National/Local disconnection is a reflection of general centralisation of political and financial powers since WWII. In COVID, inadequate public analysis of reasons behind local peaks continues to mask true and unwelcome reasons, including the broken housing market, pockets of long-term family poverty, neglect of certain ethnicities, under-investment in micro aspects of local life (medical and care, education, affordable social and market housing, security, social services). Many are the Governmental policy announcements, but very few are accompanied by agreed realistic plans and funding to implement them.
Even were that so, local implementation cannot work without Local Government being re-empowered, given overall responsibility for own community matters, and adequately funded. Key challenge for UK is how to change that now habitual centralist mindset of Westminster and Whitehall, in a complex modern and partially international economic system. Many cross-party and desirable political aims cannot be met unless such reform happens: ‘levelling up’, becoming greener, reducing the remuneration chasm between top and bottom of businesses, and between genders and ethnicities, regulating the giant multinationals, are some popular examples which COVID-19 has highlighted further.
This will require proven leaders from relevant backgrounds, and consultation and delegated plenipotentiary powers more reminiscent of the consensus politics of the 1950s/60s than the fractured politics of today.