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Full Council 2nd December 2020 Questions from Cllr Mohammed Mahroof (with answers)

by timhuggan on 3 December, 2020

Question of Councillor Mohammed Mahroof to Councillor Abtisam
Mohamed (Cabinet Member for Education and Skills)

Question Parents and teachers are very concerned about increasing numbers of Covid-19 positive cases in schools. Has there been any thought given to closing schools earlier this Christmas?
Answer Our local intelligence continues to say that school-based cases are mostly reflective of community transmission. People acquiring an infection outside of school but then happen to come into school. What we are able to confirm is that we are seeing single cases and clusters among pupils and staff in schools rather than a high number of outbreaks. This reflects the fact that the majority of virus transmission is in the community and relates to households. We are confident that our schools are taking all appropriate measures, including isolating cases and identifying contacts. All settings also receiving advice and support from the Department for Education, the Local Authority Public Health Team and Public Health England.
Regarding the question of whether or not the Christmas school holiday dates will be amended: either locally or nationally. The Winter Plan, at paragraph 73, sets out the Government’s clear expectation that schools, education and childcare settings will remain open. Added to this also, there has been an example where the Focus Trust, an academy trust based in Oldham, announced that it was to close all its schools for an additional week at Christmas, only to reverse this a few days later following an intervention by their Regional Schools Commissioner. There is no legal
basis or means for schools or academies to proactively close early for the
Christmas holiday. It is important for schools to stay open to provide an education to children and society has made other trade-offs to enable schools to continue to stay open. There isn’t a benefit to closing schools early at Christmas and this would be detrimental to missed education opportunities. Even if schools closed early, there would be no guarantees that there would not be community transmission of the virus in other settings such as Christmas shopping.

Questions of Councillor Mohammed Mahroof to Councillor Bob Johnson (Cabinet Member for Transport and Development)

Question: Darwin Lane, which has a school and is on a bus route, had a major incident in February, 2020 due to unprecedented weather conditions resulting in many traffic collisions. Will this be looked at with a view to mitigating any further problems this winter, including the provision of further grit bins?

Answer: Darwin Lane is a Priority 2 Precautionary Gritting route and there is already a grit bin within 200 metres of this location on the junction of Darwin Close and Darwin Lane, and as such it is not eligible against the Council’s published criteria for another grit bin to be provided.

Sheffield already operates the largest percentage precautionary gritting network of any Local Authority in the UK, and have more grit bins for public use than any other UK Local Authority – more than Manchester and Nottingham combined so our service offer to the people of Sheffield is significant.

We are aware of media coverage of a small number of incidents involve cars skidding over a very light dusting of snow, thankfully with no injuries reported.

Our forecasting system had highlighted that there was a chance of a small amount of snowfall on higher ground, and as such, in line with national guidance, all roads over 200m above sea level were treated at the maximum possible spread rate from 7pm the day before. Roads below this altitude were treated from midnight.

This is called creating a debonding layer, which endeavours to prevent the snow from settling as effectively, and is in line with national best practice for this particular forecast.

A further treatment commenced at 6:15am, due to snow starting to fall.

Given the size of the highway network in Sheffield, a full gritting run takes in the order of 6 and a half hours, this road was treated by 11am.

Spreading of salt is not a magic bullet, and as such, we do rely on motorists driving appropriately to the road conditions to traffic the salt into the snow, which creates a “brine” – this salty liquid and repeated vehicle movements is what actually melts the snow – given that we had already treated at the maximum rate, provision of more grit bins at local level would not have assisted this process.

Question of Councillor Mohammed Mahroof to Councillor George Lindars-Hammond (Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care) to be answered by Councillor Jackie Drayton

Question: Could you please explain what role Sheffield City Council plays in test and trace. How many staff are allocated to this role and what is the cost? Also, do you feel it’s working?

Answer: Sheffield City Council supports and augments with the National System of Test and Trace. It is well documented that the National System is significantly more resourced than any local approach. In terms of Local Testing we can see that the Local Test

Sites are being accessed by local people and we are reaching into communities, the collaboration with the DHSC, SCC, Voluntary Sector and Communities has meant we have got as much as we could out of the national system and put Sheffield in the best position we could going forward. We continue to be disappointed that the DHSC will not permit “walk ins” to our test sites as we feel this would also improve their reach into communities.

Our local contact tracing service works with cases the national system has not been able to contact and we are successfully able to complete contact tracing on average 75% of these cases a figure which has improved week on week since we went live just over 4 weeks ago. This contrasts with the national system that has around a 55% success rate. I do feel that our service is working well and have no doubt that their effort will have undoubtedly contributed to saving lives.

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