Councils and COVID-19: The Response Edition #10

May 29, 2020   By Charlotte Morgan, Senior Policy Researcher, NLGN

25/5/20 – 29/5/20

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_9.

Supporting residents in need

The Kingston Stronger Together partnership, which includes Kingston Council, launched an essential shopping service for residents who are isolating or shielding due to COVID-19. Volunteers pick up ‘click and collect’ orders, or visit a supermarket with a resident’s shopping list and buy food using a pre-purchased volunteer store voucher or council payment scheme. The shopping is then delivered to the resident’s front door. The service offers residents assistance with one essential shop a week.

Manchester City Council’s Community Response Hub is offering one-to-one telephone advice to residents who have access to the internet at home but are not able to use it confidently. Support can cover everything from the very basics, such as turning on and connecting a device, to accessing information and advice about COVID-19 and council services, shopping, booking GP appointments, or connecting with friends and family via video calls.

Lancaster City Council, in partnership with local education providers and businesses, developed the ‘Connecting Kids’ initiative. This will see children across Lancaster and Morecambe provided with internet access and digital devices, as well as tailored tuition delivered by up to 300 Lancaster University student mentors, to help ensure they do not fall behind during the school closure period. The initiative has so far raised £118,000 in donations from the council and large businesses and charities.

Surrey County Council and partners launched free online awareness sessions for the county’s 300 unpaid carers to support them and their loved ones during the COVID-19 outbreak. The sessions will help unpaid carers learn how they can create a hygienically safe environment to minimise the risk that they and the people they care for will become infected.

Supporting community groups

The Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane, Cllr Diane Taylor, appealed to residents to invite her to online community events and meetings. Speaking after she participated in an online Ramadan meeting organised by the Basingstoke branch of the Dialogue Society and the Fellowship Educational Society, Cllr Taylor said: “It is so important to stay connected and informed about what is happening and how we [the council] can lend a hand if needed.”

Additional funding

Brighton & Hove City Council expanded the criteria for its youth grant funding scheme so that local community groups supporting young people recovering from the impact of COVID-19 can apply. A total of £130,000 in grants will be made available in the coming year, as the council decided to increase the scheme’s budget by £40,000.

Preparing for relaxation of lockdown

Liverpool City Council launched a new £450,000 fund to help local independent businesses redesign outdoor spaces. In the first scheme of its kind in the UK, bars and restaurants will get support to create high-quality covered seating areas to make up for the internal space they are losing as a result of social distancing restrictions.

Birmingham City Council cut ‘channels’ of roughly 2 metres in width into the grass in the city’s 591 open green spaces to help people maintain social distancing as visitor numbers increase.

Wiltshire Council
is halving the time it takes for signal-controlled pedestrian crossings to turn to the green man, from the current 30 seconds to a new maximum of 15 seconds. The move is intended to reduce the amount of time pedestrians are waiting at a crossing, and in turn aid social distancing.

Self-isolation activities

Wakefield Council invested almost £50,000 in creative individuals and cultural organisations to generate new work inspired by the COVID-19 outbreak. Some of the 14 projects in receipt of funding will provide Wakefield residents with opportunities to be creative and build connections while experiencing social distancing, while others will creatively document and capture life across the district during the pandemic.

Bury Council announced a packed programme of online cultural events to mark the borough’s year as Greater Manchester Town of Culture. Events include a mass sing-a-long, live interactive storytelling, virtual tours of local exhibitions, and dementia-friendly creative sessions.

We will be continuing to update these examples weekly. Please write to Charlotte Morgan – to submit your own.

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