Coronavirus: Council sources own PPE due to supply concerns

By Felicity Evans
Political editor, Wales

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image source, Getty Images
image captionSupplies have improved from a "spasmodic" start, the council leader said

A council is buying its own personal protective equipment in the coronavirus fight over a lack of "transparency" about Welsh Government supplies.

Carmarthenshire council said not knowing the amount or type of PPE being delivered made planning difficult.

Plaid Cymru council leader Emlyn Dole said: "I'm grateful for the Welsh Government's efforts, but they're not giving us the whole picture."

The Welsh Government said it was working as fast as it could on PPE.

The Welsh Local Government Association said supplies of PPE to front-line workers had been a "significant concern" to councils and added there were issues over "availability and completeness of supplies".

Mr Dole said: "I don't want to leave anyone without care because we're short.

"This is about the ability to plan forward from one week to the next."

He said provision had improved from a "spasmodic" start and now supplies were being dispatched on a weekly basis.

"I'm grateful for everything they're doing, but Monday's delivery didn't cover all of the weekly requirement.

"Then we asked Welsh Government for more and we got it, but next week it starts again. We need to know what's available so we can procure accordingly."

image captionRules suggest Carmarthenshire council needs 76,000 face masks a week, Emlyn Dole says

Mr Dole said he was pleased new guidance on the use of PPE was published last week, but modelling on those new rules suggested Carmarthenshire council needed 76,000 face masks every week, in addition to other pieces of equipment.

Council officers were asked to look at how to obtain PPE equipment from very early on in the pandemic and Mr Dole said he was taking everything available.

'Emergency footing'

"As long as it meets the standards and specifications, we're buying whatever we can get our hands on," he said.

He does not know if he is breaking any rules, but insisted: "I have a duty of care to people.

"We're on an emergency footing and we need to make sure our care providers are secure and adequately protected.

"What I've asked for is transparency from the Welsh Government about what they hold so that we can plan.

"I don't mind being criticised for it later, so long as I'm protecting people."

A Welsh Government spokesman said: "We provide all local authorities with access to supplies of PPE via the network of local authority joint community equipment stores across Wales.

"Wherever possible we will tell local authorities what they can expect to receive.

"However, we are working as fast as we can to increase PPE supplies to local authorities and this means we cannot always give exact details of what is coming.

"Plans are being worked up to establish specific schedules for each store."

The Welsh Local Government Association added that "inevitably it has taken some time to develop guidance and understanding in relation to PPE usage".

"There have also been issues about availability and completeness of supplies and national coordination of deliveries and restocking," a spokesman said.

"[Council] leaders recognise that PPE supply is a national and global issue and the NHS and other services also face pressures."

He added: "Leaders meet twice weekly with ministers to discuss Covid-19 and PPE is a regular item on the agenda and will be revisited again at our meeting with ministers later today."

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