The West Country Debate December: Omicron, social care and local mayors

  • Watch December's edition of the West Country Debate

The same week the Government faced heat over an alleged 2020 Christmas party, this year's festivities faced doubt as the spread of Omicron forced the country into another round of 'Plan B' restrictions.

All this as the health and care services in the region cry out for help with ambulances waiting outside Devon hospitals for hours on end and medically fit patients being forced to stay in much needed hospital beds because of a lack of aftercare.

Elsewhere central government discusses the need for more regional mayors at the same time councillors in Bristol triggered a referendum on the need for the mayor they already have - something Marvin Rees says is an attack on him personally.

Joining the panel for these discussions is:

  • Ben Bradshaw - Labour MP for Exeter

  • Richard Graham - Conservative MP for Gloucester

  • Tessa Munt - Liberal Democrat Somerset County Councillor and former MP for Wells

Plan B

It's been a week since Omicron arrived in the West Country and all data points to it spreading quickly.

To get ahead of the curve and hopefully prevent more restrictions over Christmas, current regulations have been tightened with NHS Covid passes introduced across England for the first time.

Though Labour has said it will support the Government in the implementation of new restrictions, some Conservative MPs remain to be convinced.

On the show, MP Richard Graham said the rules are important but it's up to everyone to take individual responsibility to protect others from the virus, while both Ben Bradshaw MP and Cllr Tessa Munt said the confusion around Plan B rendered it ineffective.

Social Care

This week emergency, health and social care workers from across the West Country cried out for help as backed up services lead to patients waiting critically long times to receive care.

Opinions were split on the panel as to what the root of the issue actually is - Richard Graham says getting independent older people out of hospital and back into their homes is key, but Cllr Tessa Munt says it's a lack of workforce planning on the Government's behalf. Ben Bradshaw argues that workers are not being incentivised to join the sector.

More Metro Mayors?

This week Bristol councillors voted to allow a referendum on the future of the role of the city's mayor - something Marvin Rees says is an attack on him and an attack on Labour.

At the same time the delayed levelling up plans for the country could see more regional metro mayors deployed.

Ben Bradshaw says his idea of levelling up is to give whoever is in power more resource to help who they serve, while Richard Graham says having the right people in charge is the main goal. Tessa Munt says regardless of who is in charge places like Somerset need better regional infrastructure.