Coronavirus - A letter from the Leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council
Dear fellow resident,
Over the past couple of weeks, as the true scale of the Coronavirus pandemic has become clearer, officers and councillors at the Borough Council have been working incredibly hard to ensure that essential services to the public are maintained as far as possible.
The health and wellbeing of our workforce, their families and the community at large are at the forefront of our decisions. The response from our workforce has been fantastic in what is truly an unprecedented situation.
Our planning is guided by the advice from central Government, which is updated daily, and by the emerging picture of self-isolation within our own community. At this stage there is a strong emphasis of Social Distancing in order to slow the spread of the virus.
Set out below are some immediate changes that need to be implemented in the way the Council works during this period:
Incident Management Team (IMT) – The Borough Council’s Chief Executive is chairing an IMT, which brings together officers from across the Council on a daily basis. The guiding strategy is to sustain critical services, support the most vulnerable, and ensure as far as practical the health and wellbeing of employees and the community.
It is clear that over the coming days and weeks it will be necessary to reprioritise the work of the Council to focus on the most vulnerable and to adjust to reductions in staffing levels where colleagues need to self-isolate.
Social Distancing – The Council has well-developed arrangements for home working and this has been fully enacted where the job role allows.
Waste Management – arrangements have been made to redeploy staff into waste management to sustain the current service for as long as possible. If absence levels, or Government advice, require us to change the collection programme, the Council will let residents know via its website and social media.
Customer Services – members of the public are being encouraged to use telephone and on-line channels to access services as Castle House and the Kidsgrove Customer Service Centre are now closed until further notice.
Over the last week the number of people visiting Castle House to access Council services has dropped significantly, and the phone and on-line alternatives are becoming increasingly popular. In light of this, the Council will focus its service access to online engagement.
Jubilee 2 – following the advice issued on Friday evening, Jubilee2 is closed until further notice.
Support for businesses in the borough – We have put into place new support packages that we can offer to local businesses to help them through the impact of Coronavirus and we will be writing to individual companies in the coming days. Information about the various measures can also be accessed via our website. We are here to support you as much as we can.
Vulnerable people – Local Government has been tasked by central Government to deliver support to the most vulnerable people impacted by the pandemic. This is likely to grow into a very significant work stream involving community and voluntary organisations. We will be working closely with Staffordshire County Council, Support Staffordshire and other partners on the Coronavirus community support effort in the borough.
Council meetings – For the time being, Council meetings will only take place when required by law until Government guidance allows otherwise.
Should any decision be required which would usually require a Council meeting, the existing urgency provisions in the Council Constitution will be used so that business can continue.
Across all Council activities, we will strive to maximise openness. Council reports will be published in the usual way and decisions published as they are currently. The decision-making process will be kept under constant review in order to maximise councillor and public engagement.
Everyone is currently going through a difficult and worrying period, but rest assured the Council and its partners are working hard to deliver services and help the most vulnerable in our community.
Simon Tagg, Council Leader
Last updated 23 March 2020
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