The Leader of the Council reported the following:
Following the departure of our previous Chief Executive, I’m pleased to report that, following an Appointments and Conditions of Service Committee interview in March, Katherine Kerswell has been appointed Interim Chief Executive of Nottingham City Council. Katherine joined the Council in mid-April and will lead our Corporate Leadership Team and work with Councillors until a permanent Chief Executive is formally appointed, which we will hear about later this afternoon, and able to start working with the Council. We are pleased to already be working alongside Katherine and I’m sure you will all join me in welcoming Katherine to the Council.
I would also like to report that Candida Brudenell, the Council’s Corporate Director for Strategy and Resources, and Assistant Chief Executive, will be leaving us, having joined the Council as an apprentice 33 years ago. Candida has championed Nottingham people throughout her time at the Council, helping to bring forward real change in transforming the services we deliver as well as forging lasting relationships with partners at home and abroad. More recently, Candida has played a critical role in leading the Council’s response to coronavirus. There will be an opportunity to say thank you properly to Candida in the next few weeks, but as this is her last Full Council meeting, we wish her well in her new role as Assistant Chief Fire Officer at Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Fire and Rescue Authority.
The Council’s response to Covid-19
The coronavirus has had a dramatic effect on the City and the way services are run in Nottingham. In Nottingham, 163 people have sadly lost their lives, including two much loved members of Nottingham City Council staff. Ralston Fustiye and a young woman whose family don't wish her name to be mentioned today. On behalf of the Council, I send my deepest condolences to everyone who has lost loved ones to this dreadful virus and we are thinking of you at this time. At the end of this item on the agenda I will ask councillors to join me in a minutes silence in memory of all those who have lost their lives in Nottingham, particularly our two members of staff.
As a Council we have had to respond quickly and effectively to change the way we deliver services to the people in our City. We’ve had to make hard choices to alter and stop services in order to protect our staff and keep citizens safe from harm. These hard choices mean we have, for example, closed facilities like Crocus Fields in the Meadows which provides short breaks for children with the highest need. We’ve put a stop to non-essential housing repairs, to garden waste collections, reduced Housing Aid contact to an appointment only system and closed our day centres. While people are being instructed to avoid non-essential travel, we’ve closed the Tourist Information Centre. And whilst our parks remain open so that people can still access them for exercise, our play areas have been closed. Many more services have been altered or paused.
Such tough decisions have not been taken lightly, but they have been taken to protect our citizens as much as we are able, to slow the spread of infection, to protect the NHS and to save lives.
Our biggest priority in the last two months has been to support those working with our frail elderly and those with disabilities in care homes and in their own homes. Our procurement team have worked hard to supplement the government's supplies of personal protective equipment which have not been reliable, with purchases from local suppliers. Some staff from across the Council have agreed to be redeployed to work in this area and we have had over 200 applications to fill vacancies. Now the work is turning to the testing of staff and residents in our care homes in partnership with local health providers.
We’ve been working with citizens who have requested help during the coronavirus pandemic, with vital food supplies being delivered across the City. There are over 11,000 Nottingham people on the National Shielding Programme and each of those individuals has either been contacted or is being contacted by phone or in person by the Council to establish their level of need and support. In addition, Nottingham residents have sought help from our Customer Hub and in excess of 2,000 requests for assistance have now been received and responded to by staff or volunteers. An additional Nottingham Arrow has supplemented the online communications which have been circulated daily to keep our citizens informed and advised during this worrying time.
As a City we can also be very proud that, since the outbreak of Coronavirus, a large number of community groups and volunteers have come forward and offered their time and resources to support those in need. We are extremely grateful to them and the work they are doing in their communities. I have been heartened by the amazing community response we’ve seen in Nottingham, from neighbours looking out for one another, to the Robin Hood Fund raising money for those in need, which has raised over £70,000 for those supporting the most vulnerable, with Nottingham charities and voluntary groups now able to apply for a grant of up to £1,000 to deliver projects or services here in Nottingham.
Throughout the past 2 months, people in Nottingham have been coming to terms with most children not being able to attend school. We have worked with several major supermarket chains to operate a voucher or gift card scheme so that children and young people can still access free school meals. We have also created online resources to help people stay happy and healthy and to keep children engaged, all available for free, delivered online to the safety of peoples’ homes. Our schools have stayed open to provide care for children of key workers and those who are vulnerable.
We have also worked alongside our partners in the City to ensure that everyone sleeping rough in Nottingham has the offer of a place to stay and support from other agencies has meant that everyone in this emergency accommodation has had meals delivered to their doors.
We know that people in Nottingham have been concerned about finding work or claiming benefits. We have advised those self-employed and local businesses as to how they might benefit from the government schemes which we have administered. Grant funding to help small businesses through this difficult time has been available and so far, we have paid out over £40million to local businesses with over 90% of those who have submitted their application having now had their grant. I’m also pleased that during the past week, Nottingham City Council has allocated emergency hardship grants to households that come under our Council Tax Support Scheme, totalling just over £3m. Sadly, there have been many additional applications for Universal Credit as jobs have been lost as a result of Covid-19.
Throughout this pandemic, our focus has not only been on maintaining vital services for the people of our City, but also on those who deliver them. We have been working hard alongside our Trade Unions, to keep Council staff safe, closing non-essential buildings to those can work safety from home, all to limit the spread of this virus. We have an excellent Council workforce who are dedicated to keeping services running and local people supported.
On behalf of Nottingham City Council, I want to again pay a special heartfelt thanks to all of our frontline Council staff, working hard across the City to keep people well, safe from harm, and to keep vital services going. Many of these frontline staff are going the extra mile to serve citizens who may be vulnerable and frightened at this time. Their service will not go unnoticed and I salute them for all that they are doing at this time. I also want to thank all Council staff and councillors for their different roles during this crisis. Whether working in communities or making decisions and resources available to resist this virus, I am grateful to all for the contributions that you have made.
As a City, we stand together and I’m confident we will continue to do so over the coming weeks and months.
As much as we appreciate and celebrate the efforts made by Nottingham people to raise money and donate time to look after our vulnerable people, we know that the Government can and should do more to help local authorities deal with this crisis. I will continue to meet with regional and national leaders and lobby ministers in Government for a fair and proportionate amount of funding to meet these challenges. I hope there will also be more recognition of the vital role public services play in the lives of the people we serve and the dedication and commitment of those who carry out this essential work.
Finally, we know that the measures we have taken as a Council in partnership with our citizens, have without question helped stem the flow of infection in Nottingham. We are not through this crisis, there is much still facing us, but I am confident that in Nottingham, together we will tackle the many issues that Covid-19 presents and that we will come through this and recover from the dreadful effects of the virus on our City.
Councillor Kevin Clarke, Leader of the Nottingham Independents Group, and Councillor Andrew Rule, Leader of the Conservative Group, spoke about the response to current coronavirus outbreak.
Councillor AJ Matsiko spoke in tribute to Ralston Fustiye.
A minute’s silence was held.