By Andrew Semple, Labour borough councillor for Christchurch, Cockermouth

Like everyone , I watch a lot of random stuff on Youtube these days, and up popped a little documentary on the leadership culture on an American submarine.

The narrator said “people were learning and teaching wherever I went” and the Captain remarked: “That is essential on a boat that regularly sinks itself on purpose”.

Now I understand why there is a learning culture at Allerdale council (not that every councillor takes advantage of opportunities to develop, but on the Labour side we certainly do).

So let me recommend the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) podcast “The State of Inequality”. You get objective, independent analysis. Here we are submerged in lockdown and we need to look after each other, resurface and plan the way ahead.

For the pandemic has exposed old and deep inequalities. Let’s focus on young people – if you are a worker under 25 you are two-and-a-half times more likely than those over 25 to have been working in the hospitality or non-food retail sectors that have closed entirely. And school shut downs accentuate the socio-economic divide in educational attainment. The virus is ruthlessly exposing the gaps between the haves and have nots.

But if we have rediscovered and learned one thing it is: working together locally.

The vaccination programme in Cockermouth reveals local partnership at its best, with the community hospital at its hub. It is one of the most effective in the UK.

The town has learned from previous natural emergencies and has a highly effective voluntary sector as evidenced by the Cockermouth Emergency Response Group, who have been supporting vulnerable people and produced volunteers to support the vaccination centre.

So, the time is right to begin to shape the welfare system needed to support families and transform the way in which we as a society care for an ageing population.

The Labour Party forged the NHS and welfare state following wartime. In many ways, we are in similar territory. The government talks about “levelling up” as if it has not been in power for decades.

Our local health service gets a fraction of the resources available to Tory-run Westminster or Kensington. And just imagine what we could have done in West Cumbria with that fraction of the billions given to failed, remote outsourcing companies.

Kier Starmer, speaking at Labour Local Government conference recently, said that during this pandemic we’ve been reminded that good government matters – too often, sadly, by its absence in Westminster.

Local government, local collaboration, has kept our communities safe, held them together and made a difference.