BAME communities urged to get Covid vaccine

Plus: Corby council housing tenants face possible rent increase and questions asked about government's emergency Covid funding to council

Good morning! In this week’s Friday briefing we report on a campaign to encourage people from BAME backgrounds to take up the Covid vaccine. We also hear about the possibility of rent rises for council tenants in Corby and look at questions asked over the government’s emergency Covid funding to Northamptonshire County Council

A special meeting of Northampton Borough Council’s Diverse Communities Forum met last night to address concerns and answer questions that people in black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities might have about the Covid-19 vaccine.

This comes amid growing concern nationally that people from BAME communities are less likely to take up the vaccine.

Northampton councillor James Hill told NN Journal a campaign is due to be launched in the county to reassure BAME communities and increase the uptake.

“BAME communities have been disproportionately affected by Covid for various reasons so if anything it is even more important they have the vaccine. The new campaign will include videos of local community leaders who have already received the vaccine as well posters being printed in various languages,” he said.

This week England’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam said he was concerned that “the uptake in the minority ethnic groups is not going to be as rapid or as high” compared to the white population.

Research by the Royal College of GPs found that 90 per cent of vaccine doses administered so far have been given to white people. Comparing uptake with other ethnicities shows that people of mixed ethnicity, Asian and black are, respectively, approximately only 33, 47 and 64 per cent as likely to receive the vaccine as white people.

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“Vaccines only work if people take them and we know that our patients from black, Asian and ethnic minority communities have been impacted by COVID in more severe ways than other groups - with an increased risk of severe symptoms, more hospital admissions and in the worst cases, deaths. Ensuring that all our patients, particularly those who are considered high-risk, receive the vaccine when offered it must be addressed urgently.”

Corby council tenants face rent rises

Council tenants in Corby could be hit by higher rents when Northamptonshire moves to two unitary authorities. Currently, Kettering and Corby councils manage their own council housing stock with each charging different rates of rent. Under plans by the shadow North Northamptonshire authority there will be one Housing Revenue Account (which is used by council’s to record expenditure and income on running their own housing stock) and two Neighbourhood Revenue Accounts - one for Corby and one for Kettering. 

However, the shadow authority is now seeking advice as to whether those accounts will need to be merged and the rents harmonised. This would mean people in Corby would end up paying more than they are currently and people in Kettering would pay less.

Lib Dem councillor Chris Stanbra says he’s concerned how this would impact people on low incomes at a time when they will already be paying more council tax.

“If you live in Corby and are on Universal Credit, from April you will go from paying 8% of your council tax to 25%. If you add in a rent increase you can easily see a situation where families are having to find an extra £25 per week. How do people on already very limited incomes do that?”

Questions over government Covid funding to council

At the last ever cabinet meeting of Northamptonshire County Council this week questions were raised as to whether the local authority could be asked to repay any money from the government’s Emergency Covid Fund that goes unspent by a certain date.

The query was raised on behalf of the scrutiny committee as the council is setting aside £14.1m of the funds it has received to recover from the impact of Covid. The total amount received to date is £43.7m plus a £2.6m reimbursement of lost sales, fees and charges incomes. 

Councillors were told that while there is nothing to suggest that unspent money would need to be recouped or repaid there has not been confirmation from the government that this is the case. NN Journal has contacted the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government for clarification.

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