Full Council received a presentation from the Leader of the Council, Mr M Tett, on the work of the Council during the Covid-19 pandemic and the support provided to the residents of Buckinghamshire. The Leader was joined by the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Mrs A Macpherson, the Cabinet Member for Communities and Public Health, Mr G Williams, the Cabinet Member for Transport, Mr N Naylor, the Cabinet Member for Environment and Climate Change, Mr B Chapple, the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Mr M Shaw, the Cabinet Member for Education, Mrs A Cranmer, the Cabinet Member for Housing and Homelessness, Mrs I Darby, and the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Resources, Ms K Wood. The presentation can be seen appended to these minutes where full details can be viewed. Key points highlighted included:
- The overwhelming amount of work which had been carried out by the Council to keep the vulnerable and shielded residents of Buckinghamshire safe with thanks being placed on record to staff, partners, councillors, schools and education settings, businesses and suppliers, voluntary and community organisations, town and parish councils and residents and communities who have done their best to keep one another healthy and safe throughout the pandemic.
- Ten support cells had been implemented by the Council to support with the Council’s response, each covering their own area led by a member of the senior management team and aligned to a cabinet member.
- 172 staff members had been repurposed into roles to support Local Support Hubs, food distribution, making calls to the vulnerable, providing out of hours support, Community Impact Bucks, Crematoria and temporary places of rest.
- Collaborative work with partners across the various sectors was key throughout the pandemic. The Council was determined to build on the strength built through this partnership working.
- Olympic Lodge at Stoke Mandeville stadium was set up as a reablement facility to free up hospital beds in just three weeks as part of contingency planning. A rapid discharge to assess model had also been developed by the adult social care service.
- The Council kept in contact with 1,200 vulnerable clients by making over 18,000 personal calls to ensure that they were managing and to help with social isolation. The calls had been well received with this service now continuing in the business as usual work.
- Financial support for care homes had been put in place with funds received from central government and infection control plans had been developed for care homes.
- A strong two-way relationship with the voluntary sector was developed to provide support and galvanise budding volunteers. The Council worked with Community Impact Bucks and The Clare Foundation to establish and manage a very successful volunteer bank. In excess of 1,800 volunteers were recruited to support residents.
- A coronavirus councillor crisis fund of £250k had been set up with an additional £50k supplied by the Rothschild Foundation which supported local initiatives.
- 8 local support hubs had been set up which had provided support for over 6,000 residents who had no local network in place. This included providing food parcel delivery and making regular telephone calls. Further to this, excellent support had been provided by community groups and town and parish councils.
- The Council worked closely with Buckinghamshire Business First and the Buckinghamshire Local Enterprise Partnership to provide support for businesses. Around 6,300 businesses had been supported with over £83m of business rates grants processed. The Council was one of the first local authorities to launch discretionary grants and processed over 600 applications.
- Town centres had been supported with planning for safe reopening of retail and a dedicated online hub for businesses and suppliers was developed with a direct link to the Buckinghamshire Business First support hub.
- Extensive support had been offered to over 200 schools and education settings and tribute was paid to each of these settings who rose to the challenge of embracing new ways of working and had ensured they remained open for vulnerable children and children of key workers, where possible. The phased reopening of schools had to be carefully managed and had worked well.
- The Council worked closely with children’s homes and ensured care leavers were cared for and looked after. Families were also supported with receiving essential food vouchers and funding where it was required.
- Over 100 clients rough sleeping or at risk of rough sleeping were housed, and through close partnership working many had now moved on. Central Government was expected to provide funds for supported accommodation and work was ongoing to ensure this was done in the best manner.
- The Council worked closely with Buckinghamshire Healthcare Trust, the Local Resilience Forum and funeral directors to ensure there was additional capacity in temporary places of rest available if required. Overspill areas had also been set up as part of contingency planning. Credit was paid to the Muslim community for their support and willingness to work closely with the Council and partners with the funeral process.
- IT support was in place to enable 3500 staff to work at home and staff wellbeing was carefully supported throughout the pandemic.
- The Council co-ordinated mobile testing sites and developed a vulnerable client tracking system. There was centralised procurement of PPE, filtering out fraudulent suppliers and an internal online ordering system had been created with the Council delivering PPE to schools and care sites.
- Members of Parliament had been very supportive of the Council’s work and regular update meetings were held. Staff, members, partners and key stakeholders were kept up to date with regular information through council communications. Residents newsletters were sent regularly and had been well received. Daily vlogs were also shared on social media. The #proudofbucks campaign had over 100 local stories of Buckinghamshire coming together.
- The Leader emphasised that everyone must continue to play their part and do everything they could to stop potential outbreaks across the county by staying safe, staying well and staying alert to help protect Buckinghamshire.
- In response to a question, the importance of track and trace was recognised and the Leader confirmed that the Council was receiving postcode level data from the Government on a weekly basis. The Leader advised that the Council was asking the Government for this information to be provided on a more regular basis, preferably daily, to help identify trends on a real time basis. This was challenging for the Government to do as the data comes from a variety of sources, but it was something that the Government was working on.