Councils and covid-19: The response Edition #1

March 27, 2020  |  By Charlotte Morgan, Senior Policy Researcher, NLGN

Local authorities are indispensable in our current crisis and are therefore under enormous pressure. They manage the public services that people are increasingly reliant on, support the most vulnerable people in our communities, and hold information that keeps local people safe and informed. In this time of great uncertainty, councils are taking new, radical and innovative steps to deal with the crisis and protect their residents. We’re compiling some here and will update it weekly.

If you would like to share examples of how your local authority is responding to COVID-19, please write to Charlotte Morgan – cmorgan@nlgn.gov.uk/ @cmorgan_9.

Supporting key workers and vulnerable people

Manchester City Council and Liverpool City Council secured agreements with local hotels to provide rooms for rough sleepers and people in shared accommodation during the outbreak. The individuals will continue to be provided with food and welfare support.

Sunderland City Council suspended charges in all council-run multi-storeys and bay parking – nearly 2,500 spaces in total. This move is intended to allow key workers to access their workplace, and to help people who need to pick up groceries and medication for vulnerable residents and themselves.

In collaboration with local bus companies, West Sussex County Council announced that pensioners and vulnerable people with the council’s bus passes can use them earlier than previously – before 9:30am on weekdays. This will make it easier for them to access the dedicated hour for elderly and vulnerable customers at their local supermarket. Staffordshire County Council also made this arrangement in their area.

Darlington Borough Council set up an Interim Library Delivery Service for existing library users over the age of 60. Users can request up to ten books to be delivered to their home address and arrange for them to be collected or swapped four weeks later.

Additional funding

Southwark Council made temporary changes to the Southwark Emergency Support Scheme so that people requiring urgent support can apply. Anyone who has experienced a sudden loss or reduction in income and cannot meet their household’s basic needs is eligible to apply. The council has injected an additional £1.5 million into the scheme’s budget to meet likely demand.

Kirklees Council increased the budget available for each of its 23 wards from £20,000 to £50,000. This will enable local councillors to “manage and invest in their communities to help people most in need.”

Wakefield Council is providing support to local food banks so that they can continue operating during the COVID-19 crisis. Their support includes buying and supplying food to food banks when their stock runs low. Norwich City Council pledged up to £10,000 to aid the work of their city’s food banks.

Keeping communities informed

Essex County Council is working in partnership with Facebook and local communities to run the Essex Coronavirus Action group, a trustworthy source of information and advice on COVID-19 for the county’s residents. A document offering more detail on the council’s approach to harnessing the power of communities to tackle the COVID-19 crisis is available here.

Bolton Council are issuing daily updates, which clearly set out how the council and local partners are adapting their services to respond to the public health crisis and what the latest national guidance is on self-isolation. The council has also created an emergency contact number so that vulnerable people who cannot leave their homes at any time can contact them about their urgent requirements.

Adur & Worthing Councils produced online instructor-led exercise tutorials to help residents keep active while housebound. They include easier and harder exercises to suit all abilities.

Gathering evidence

Birmingham City Council launched a survey to help them understand the challenges faced by the city’s business community. The council will use the survey responses to shape their support measures for businesses and form “the strongest possible business case” to obtain additional national funding.

Wokingham Borough Council is compiling a list of local retailers that offer home deliveries for essential goods.

We will be continuing to update these examples weekly. Please write to Charlotte Morgan – cmorgan@newlocal.org.uk to submit your own.