Councils and COVID-19: The Response Edition #12

June 12, 2020   By Charlotte Morgan, Senior Policy Researcher, NLGN

08/6/20 – 12/6/20

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

Sutton Council is working in partnership with ViaVan to deliver food parcels to residents more efficiently. ViaVan’s technology, previously used to support demand-responsive bus service GoSutton, is being used to coordinate deliveries and route volunteer drivers through a mobile app. Residents receive a text notification to let them know their delivery is on the way, with an estimated time of arrival and notification upon completion. The council is sending out over 700 food parcels a week to those in need throughout the borough.

Essex County Council will award £250,000 to the Citizens Advice network to support its response to individuals and businesses in the county following the COVID-19 lockdown. The funding will enable Citizens Advice to offer additional capacity and more legal advice, such as specialist level employment advice to small businesses and sole traders.

Councillors and senior management at Wigan Council delivered gifts, ranging from thank you cards to afternoon tea, to carers’ homes in the borough to mark Carers Week 2020.

Informing communities

Birmingham City Council’s
Public Health Division developed a communication and engagement campaign to further support BAME, disabled and LGBT communities across the city during the pandemic. The campaign will see the council work with a wide range of partner organisations to understand specific issues around COVID-19 faced by particular BAME, disabled and LGBT communities and use effective and appropriate culturally sensitive methods to send them public health messages.

Kingston Council officers and local volunteer leaders made a film to tell the story of how the Kingston Stronger Together volunteering hub was formed and how it helps people across the borough.

Supporting businesses

Staffordshire County Council launched ‘The Staffordshire Start-Up Programme’ to support people with ambitions of starting their own business and whose current employment may be at risk due to the COVID-19 crisis. The council’s economic growth leader, Mark Winnington, commented: “During the 2008 recession the number of start-up businesses in the county increased and so we anticipate it may be the same over the coming year.”

Warwickshire County Council invited retailers and food establishments to send in short video clips from their mobile phones to have their businesses featured in a series of short films promoting each of the county’s towns. The videos are part of a new ‘Buy Eat Local’ campaign, led by the council and partners, encouraging residents to continue to support local retail and food businesses as lockdown restrictions are eased.

Devon County Council is introducing ‘temporary street café licences’ to help local hospitality businesses re-open in the coming weeks. Applying for a street café licence usually requires a 12-week formal process, including a statutory 28-day consultation period. The temporary licence will enable most businesses to provide outdoor seating while the consultation is underway.

Preparing for relaxation of lockdown

Rutland Council is working with the area’s town councils on a website to let residents know which shops are open and whether they have safety or social distancing measures in place.

Milton Keynes Council created artwork on COVID-19 health and safety messages for local small businesses and community groups to download, print and display in their premises.

Self-isolation/lockdown activities

Durham County Council and partners announced that the Virtual Durham City Run Festival will take place in July, during the same weekend when the event should have been held in real life. People who want to take part in the virtual festival can register online and, with the help of a special app, record and submit their best time for a solo run over the 10K, 5K or mile distance at any time from 9am on Thursday 16 July to midnight on Sunday 19 July. A proportion of each entry fee will be donated to St Cuthbert’s Hospice in the city.

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

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