COVID-19 Inquiry — local authorities to preserve papers
What is to be expected of local authorities and the disclosure of their documentation?
The Inquiry held its first preliminary hearing on 4 October. This related to Module 1 “Preparedness.”
During submissions, it emerged that the Cabinet Office had been told to ensure that material relevant to the Inquiry (which may be wider than documents) were preserved across Government. However, that message may not have made its way to local authorities.
The Inquiry is now up and running. The outline of Module 2 was published last month — Government Decision Making. The outline of Module 3, on Healthcare Impacts, is expected imminently. It is speculation, but we expect there to be at least 15 or more Modules, based on the Terms of Reference.
Local authorities played a very important role in the pandemic response, so the Inquiry will be making Rule 9 requests for disclosure of material to them in many of the Modules. This is inevitable. The Inquiry has a protocol on how documents should be provided to it: link to protocol. A redaction protocol is expected shortly.
Going forward, all local authorities need to preserve this material (as was done previously for IICSA). Information Governance Teams should be made aware immediately.