Councils and COVID-19: The Response Edition #3

April 9, 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.

This is part of a weekly series. Read edition 1, and edition 2

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

Supporting residents in need

Warwickshire County Council, alongside district councils and partners, opened shielding hubs to help people who have been identified as “extremely vulnerable” (i.e. must self-isolate for 12 weeks) and have no access to food and support. A dedicated hotline has been set up for people in this group to request information and assistance. Over 750 support packages have already been distributed.

Babergh District Council and local businesses worked round the clock to refurbish a building to provide urgent accommodation to people at risk during the COVID-19 outbreak. The building, which had only recently been returned to the council, will house people who are sleeping rough or at risk of homelessness and need somewhere safe to self-isolate.

Calderdale Council is working with West Yorkshire Fire & Rescue Service to deliver food parcels quickly to “extremely vulnerable” residents. The council’s Community Protection Team is also working in partnership with West Yorkshire Police to engage with people using public spaces and help them understand the national guidance.

Wigan Council
is responding to the COVID-19 crisis with a “community approach”. This infographic summarises the linkages between various local partnerships and networks that are enabling the approach.

Additional funding

Coventry City Council launched a match-funded grant in partnership with Crowdfunder to support the city’s self-employed, small and micro businesses in the sports and culture sectors. The grant requires the businesses selected after application to continue to advance sales of goods or services and reach a project target. Once reached, funds of up to £1,000 will be released.

Croydon Council established a new Voluntary and Community Sector Covid-19 Emergency Fund. It will give voluntary and community organisations financial support to continue their work in responding directly to the pandemic, above and beyond their normal activities. The maximum bid amount is £10,000 for established organisations and up to £5,000 for new smaller-scale or informal groups, with no minimum.

Tewkesbury Borough Council also announced the creation of a COVID-19 Emergency Community Fund. Charitable organisations across the borough (and voluntary and community groups with charitable aims) can now apply for a grant of up to £1,000 to deliver projects or services that meet the Tewkesbury Borough COVID-19 Emergency Community Fund criteria.

Information campaigns

Cambridgeshire County Council and Peterborough City Council published videos featuring members of the community reading COVID-19 public health advice in different languages. The recordings are also being used by partner organisations such as Cambridgeshire Police, whose officers are playing the translations on their mobile devices when they are on the streets meeting people who are not following the stay at home guidance.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council urged people to stay away from the seaside with a new campaign, ‘Don’t Visit Southend’. The council has closed its seafront car parks and acquired a traffic order enabling road closures if necessary to support the campaign. Cllr Ian Gilbert, the council’s leader, commented: “Visitors are not welcome to Southend at this time. We will still be here when this is all over and we look forward to seeing you then.”

Support for businesses and VCSE organisations

Newark and Sherwood District Council is supporting a community kitchen, which normally runs as a sit-in café, to deliver meals to the homes of local residents. Two members of council staff have been redeployed to assist volunteers with their catering and delivery efforts, and meals are free of charge to people in need.

Islington Council’s
CCTV monitoring teams are working with the Met Police to keep empty shops and businesses safe during the COVID-19 outbreak. The partnership has already “successfully foiled several burglaries”.

Self-isolation activities

Birmingham City Council invited small businesses and sole traders to produce videos for its social media platforms to help residents take part in new activities while stuck at home. The council is specifically looking for videos on: home-based exercise routines, art and craft projects, cooking demonstrations, activities that promote mental well-being, and educational subjects to help people learn new skills.

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

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