Councils and COVID-19: Their Response – Final edition

July 3, 2020   By Charlotte Morgan, Senior Policy Researcher, NLGN

29/6/20 – 03/7/20

Local authorities are indispensable in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. 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 have taken new, radical and innovative steps to deal with the crisis and protect their residents.

We’ve brought together some of those in a series of blogs over the last 14 weeks. As councils shift from immediate crisis response to recovery planning, this blog will be the last in our #CouncilsRespond series.

We are truly grateful to councils and their staff for looking after us all over the last three months. Life will not return to normal for many months yet, but we know our local councils will continue to do all they can to keep us safe and well at this difficult time. Thank you!

Supporting residents and key workers

Bradford Council opened a vehicle sterilisation station in the car park of a former sports centre. The service, which sterilises each vehicle in just three minutes, is available via pre-booked appointment to all organisations, businesses and members of the public at a cost of £5 per vehicle (excluding large passenger carrying vehicles). On 26th June, the £5 fee was waived for all council, NHS, police, fire and ambulance staff in their private vehicle. Each vehicle sterilised is issued with a Certificate of Guarantee for antibacterial and antiviral cleanse.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Rushmoor Borough Council and Hart District Council joined forces with Job Centre Plus to organise a virtual jobs fair. The event showcased a range of vacancies from local employers and offered free support and advice to residents who are seeking a new role following COVID-19 lockdown.

Informing communities

Warwickshire County Council worked with local rap artist Aaron Woodhouse to communicate essential COVID-19 messages to young people. Woodhouse produced a track called ‘Raise The Awareness’, which highlights the challenging times COVID-19 has brought to families and communities and encourages people to wash their hands and cover their mouths to stop the spread of the disease.

Supporting businesses

Staffordshire County Council will send a ‘start-back Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) pack’ to the first 2,000 eligible micro-businesses in the county to apply for them. The packs are intended to help micro-businesses re-open if their staff have close face-to-face contact with members of the public, or work in confined spaces, and are unable to keep to the social distancing measures.

East Lindsey District Council is working on a Local Development Order (LDO) for the coast. The LDO will remove restrictions on when holiday parks can open, meaning they could operate throughout the winter months (November – March). This was identified by a number of local businesses as a way to help them recover from the enforced closure at the start of the traditional visitor season.

Bolton Council developed a £1.25m package of measures to support businesses and town centres across the borough to re-open as lockdown restrictions ease. Measures include two hours’ free parking in Bolton town centre on weekdays, new social distancing highways signage, and contactless hand sanitising stations in five of the borough’s town centres and high streets.

Preparing for relaxation of lockdown

Durham County Council set up a temporary ‘drive-thru’ service to allow families to register their child’s birth. Parents are given an appointment to visit Aykley Heads House Register Office in Durham and are asked to remain in their car when they arrive. A registrar calls the parents’ mobile and takes all the required information over the phone. The parents are then asked to step into the foyer of the building, where their ID is checked, the paperwork signed and the birth certificate handed over – all in line with social distancing and handwashing measures.

Building on the success of its digital offer during lockdown, Cambridgeshire County Council’s Library service will develop a business case for a bus-sized vehicle that will take technology and assets into more isolated communities. This will give communities access to more services, support and opportunities – usually only available from a library building.

Planning for recovery

Hounslow Council established a Green Recovery Board to examine how challenges within the borough caused by COVID-19 and climate change can be overcome by building a low-carbon, green economy. Ideas currently on the table are the ’15-minute city’ concept, greening aviation, building on Hounslow’s Streetspace programme, and maximising the benefits of Hounslow’s parks and open spaces to support health and wellbeing, new jobs and skills development.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority launched a new Young Person’s Taskforce to engage with young people and listen to what they need as part of the COVID-19 recovery process. This will include direct engagement with young people up to the age of 30, youth organisations, colleges, training providers and business. The Taskforce, which will be chaired by Diane Modahl, will develop a Young Person’s Guarantee as a blueprint for developing opportunities that meet the wider needs of young people.

Bristol City Council and over 300 business, public and voluntary sector leaders gathered virtually to choose updated priorities in order to support the city’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The four new priorities agreed by ‘One City’ partners are: set up a new Mayoral Commission on Domestic Abuse; establish a new One City Culture Board; build a remembrance project focusing on loss and hope; and create a One City Children’s Board.

Local authorities and partners in Lancashire submitted a recovery plan to the UK Government, outlining the urgent action needed to support Lancashire’s economy in the short and longer terms and calling on the Government to work with local authorities to deliver the plan. Liverpool City Council also sent a similar report with full costings to the Government.

If you would like to send feedback on the #CouncilsRespond series or keep sharing examples of how your local authority is responding to COVID-19, please write to Charlotte Morgan – @cmorgan_9.

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