Agenda item

To receive a covid-19 update report in connection with the council’s planning, growth and sustainability and adult social care services.


Martin Tett, Leader of Buckinghamshire Council

Warren Whyte, Cabinet Member for Planning and Enforcement

Steve Bowles, Cabinet Member for Town Centre Regeneration

Isobel Darby, Cabinet Member for Housing & Homelessness

Ian Thompson, Corporate Director Planning, Growth & Sustainability

Lisa Michelson, Service Director Economic Growth & Regeneration

Nigel Dicker, Service Director Housing & Regulatory Services


The committee received a covid-19 update in connection with the council’s planning, growth and sustainability and adult social care services.


Leader of Buckinghamshire Council, Martin Tett, gave an update on the council’s response to covid-19, which included the following key points:

·         Covid-19 was declared a major incident in Buckinghamshire on the 19 March, and a national lockdown began on the 23 March, just 7 days before the new Buckinghamshire Council was due to be established.

·         The senior management structure for the new council was in place, and enabled the council to mobilise quickly in response to the pandemic.

·         A crisis response team was established and managed the council’s response through a cell structure, working closely with partners including the NHS and Local Resilience Forum (LRF).

·         Staff were repurposed into roles to support residents and particularly the most vulnerable also known as ‘shielded’.

·         It was noted that as lockdown measures were beginning to ease, the council was moving into the recovery phase of the response.

·         Thanks were expressed to members and officers for their continued hard work during the pandemic.


The following key points were raised by committee members:


·         In response to a question as to the decision to declare a major incident in Buckinghamshire prior to national lockdown, it was noted that this decision was assessed against the situation at the time. Further, it was known that a national lockdown would take place imminently but the exact timing of this was yet to be decided by central government.

·         It was noted that individuals in the shielded group were identified by the NHS. The council worked closely with the NHS to provide support for the shielded group.

·         In response to a question as to whether the council was prepared in the event of a second wave of infections, it was noted that the council would take advice from central government. It was unknown how potential future lockdowns would work, but it was understood that localised lockdowns may be likely.

·         Members were informed that the council’s unitary status had been beneficial in terms of receiving government funding to respond to the crisis.

·         Advice on how to mitigate the impact of covid-19 on vulnerable people was being continually released by central government.

·         Concern was raised as to whether Buckinghamshire unemployment levels could get back to pre-lockdown unemployment levels.


Warren Whyte, Portfolio Holder for Planning and Environment, informed the committee that the impact of covid-19 on planning income was less than expected. Thanks were expressed to members of the planning team that undertook additional responsibilities to support work on the covid-19 response.


Steve Bowles, Portfolio Holder for Town Centre Regeneration, provided an update on the impact of covid-19 on Buckinghamshire’s high streets and town centres. It was noted that officers worked closely with high streets and town centres to provide support during this period, including providing guidance and signage for safe reopening. Thanks were expressed to the officer team that had enabled the successful reopening of high streets and town centres.


The following key points were noted in response to questions from members:

·         The plans to regenerate High Wycombe town centre were progressing and would continue to do so in consultation with local members.

·         It was hoped that lessons learnt and best practice from successful local schemes established during lockdown would be taken forward.

·         The Portfolio Holder will work closely with the relevant community boards in any regeneration plans.


Isobel Darby, Portfolio Holder for housing and homelessness gave an update on the work of the housing cell during covid-19 which focussed on rough sleeping, domestic violence, and the travelling community. Members were advised that the council had successfully housed rough sleepers during lockdown. It was noted that, as people were less likely to be evicted during the crisis due to government changes to regulations, fewer people were presenting themselves as homeless to the council.


Throughout consideration of the item, members of the committee and portfolio holders paid tribute to staff for their work in the community and in response to the pandemic. Staff were commended for the way they adapted during the crisis in light of becoming a unitary council on 1 April where separate teams quickly came together as one, many working remotely.

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