Councillors invited to use Covid-19 test centre without appointment

Councillor Alev Cazimoglu, cabinet member for health and social care (credit Enfield Council)
Councillor Alev Cazimoglu, cabinet member for health and social care

Cabinet member branded ‘disgrace’ for putting Labour colleagues ahead of key workers, reports James Cracknell

Labour councillors in Enfield were encouraged to use a local Covid-19 testing centre without an appointment and before key workers, a leaked email has revealed.

The message was sent by Enfield Council’s cabinet member for health and social care, Alev Cazimoglu, shortly after the coronavirus testing facility at Lee Valley Athletics Centre opened in late April. The email to Labour councillors (pictured below) said: “The test centre is up and running today for council employees should they require testing, this also includes councillors.

“There is no need to pre-book a slot today, just turn up and have your ID.”

The email goes on to point out that key workers and their families who are not employed by the council “will need to book a slot in advance” but that this bureaucratic barrier to testing did not apply to councillors.

The council leader, Nesil Caliskan, wrote a public letter to residents a day previously which said: “The tests are being offered to NHS staff or staff working in a care setting, or members of their household, with Covid-19 symptoms. The tests are being provided as a drive through service… by pre-booked appointment only.”

The Dispatch has asked the council whether or not any councillors did attend the testing centre without an appointment but this question was not answered. A council spokesperson said: “’It is expected for cabinet members to pass on information and advice from officers to their political groups, having received particular enquiries.

“Senior members of the opposition are routinely passed the same information, at their regular briefings with officers, as has been the standard protocol over the past two months.”

Joanne Laban, leader of the opposition Conservative group on the council, has said that she does not consider councillors to be key workers and that she did not make the same offer for testing without appointments to her Tory colleagues.

In a statement, Cllr Laban said: “This is disgraceful behaviour by the cabinet member for health and adult social care. Key workers on the frontline should always be the first to receive Covid-19 tests, not elected councillors.

“I am appalled that she urged her Labour colleagues to get in before the rollout to more key workers. Cllr Cazimoglu should have been encouraging carers, street cleaners, waste collectors, and all other frontline staff to take up the opportunity to be tested, not her council colleagues.”

Asked by the Dispatch about whether local councillors should be allowed to use Covid-19 test centres without appointments, the Department for Health and Social Care advised that anyone eligible for a test must always book an appointment in advance and that “frontline essential workers” must be given priority.

For information on who’s eligible and how to book an appointment:
Visit
gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-getting-tested