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Dominic Cummings beats the coronavirus inquiry and Kent County Council has a venue change

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One of the advantages to politicians of public inquiries is that they enable them to skirt round tricky questions about what they did and why.

The inquiry promised by the government into the coronavirus pandemic has offered just such a lifeline to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock in his efforts to fend off claims made by Dominic Cummings in his explosive testimony to MPs this week.

Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark led the questioning against Cummings
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark led the questioning against Cummings

The other advantage of such inquiries is that by the time they are held and by the time any report is published, politics will have moved on and so might Matt Hancock.

This may explain why Cummings decided to get his version of events into the public domain now rather than wait to be interrogated by lawyers acting for the government rather than MPs.

When quizzed this week about the government's handling of the pandemic, he asserted that his motivation was to do what he could to ensure that if there was to be another global health crisis, the same mistakes would be avoided.

Recasting himself as a whistleblower acting in the public interest for the common good might have stretched credulity but there was no getting away from the fact that his revelations made for some awkward questions for Mr Hancock.

Not that the under-fire minister chose to rebut many of them in detail, telling MPs and journalists that so many of the allegations were unsubstantiated.

"You cannot deny that he gave a gripping account of what was going on in inside Downing Street in the early days and weeks of the pandemic..."

But he was less than convincing on one of the key charges, namely that he had failed to deliver on his commitment to ensure those discharged from hospitals and admitted to care homes were tested beforehand.

It is this issue that has been central to the claims that the government contributed to the spread of the virus and, according to Cummings led to thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Quizzed on this by journalists, Hancock awkwardly sidestepped questions by saying he had “committed to delivering that testing for people going from hospital into care homes when we could do it.”

This is not how many recalled it - among them Nadra Ahmed, head of the Medway-based National Care Association.

Never one to mince her words she said the government’s claim that it had placed a "shield" around care homes early in the pandemic was "absolute rubbish." This will be tested at the public inquiry, of course but it is one issue that arguably should be examined sooner rather than later.

Whether or not you consider Dominic Cummings to be a credible witness, you cannot deny that he gave a gripping account of what was going on in inside Downing Street in the early days and weeks of the pandemic. A case not of poacher turned gamekeeper but gamekeeper turned poacher.

Council tax

With council tax bills rising this year by as much as 5%, could things be even worse next year? According to government figures, there is a growing deficit caused by the increased numbers of people who have defaulted on their payments because of Covid-19.

According to the data, the overall deficit as things stand is an eye-watering £509bn across all councils.

The problem may become worse because government support to help cover this deficit ends in June, leaving councils to make up any gap itself.

Rob Whiteman, chief executive of Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said: “It is hard to see how councils will be able to repay the remaining deficit without additional help from taxpayers in the future.” You have been warned.


For what must have been a first for Kent County Council, its annual meeting this week did not take place in the council chamber.

Covid-19 restrictions meant that it would not have been possible to cram in all 81 county councillors without falling foul of the social distancing regulations and guidance on large gatherings.

So a venue was sourced which could accommodate everyone and notice was given that the meeting would take place in the sports hall of the University of Kent at Canterbury.

With just days to go before last week's meeting however, KCC had to find somewhere else to go because of the small number of people at the university contracting the virus.

And it was a case of back to Maidstone, where the meeting took place at Mote Park.

Sadly - or perhaps not - the meeting could not be webcast so we cannot relay any of the debate.

Head to our politics page for expert analysis and all the latest news from your politicians and councils.

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