Report of the Portfolio Holder for Energy, Environment & Democratic Services
This item does not contain any decisions that are subject to the call in.
The Board considered the report of the Portfolio Holder for Energy, Environment and Democratic Services updating them on the impact of Covid-19 and the urgent response of the Council to the pandemic. She outlined the key activities and highlighted the challenges faced by the Council in its response. The following points were highlighted during discussion:
(a) Robust business continuity plans were in place that became active quickly and efficiently. Special thanks go to the IT team who worked tirelessly to ensure that Officers and Members were able to work effectively and efficiently from home in a very short space of time;
(b) The Customer Hub have worked tirelessly to ensure information and services are reaching vulnerable citizens, services like food parcels for those shielding, prescription delivery for the elderly, essential personal care, and signposting for financial advice and support;
(c) Up to 80% of the Council’s usual transactions are now taking place online, ensuring that normal activity is continued for citizens where possible;
(d) Officers in Communications and engagement have directly contacted numerous citizens, welfare checks have been carried out and Neighbourhood Development Officers have mobilised to create local resilience teams within each ward. There has been a large number of local volunteers that have made this work possible;
(e) The Robin Hood GoFundMe page has raised over £70,000 to help citizens and businesses struggling through the crisis;
(f) The Government initially pledged that all costs incurred by Councils in response to the Covid-19 crisis would be refunded, there have been grant payments but not as much as was initially promised;
(g) Despite a national shortage, the Council managed to maintain its supplies of PPE thanks to hard work of the procurement teams. HR Officers are now working closely with Trade Unions to ensure that when services start to run again they do so safely for both staff and service users. HR staff are offering support to colleagues to transition back to work;
(h) Many thanks go to the numerous volunteer groups and individuals who have worked together and helped to ensure that citizens in need received the help and support that they needed, and to colleagues in Emergency Planning who coordinated the county wide response;
(i) Care homes and staff were praised for their hard work in very difficult circumstances. Care providers supporting vulnerable citizens were thanked for their dedication and best efforts on infection control. Staff in some circumstances were redeployed to support work whilst some were in isolation;
(j) Education and Children’s Services staff have worked tirelessly to identify and support vulnerable children and families. They have supported them with school work, supplied activities and remained in touch;
(k) Housing aid and refuges have worked hard to maximise resources and refuge spaces for domestic violence victims;
(l) Particular thanks was given to colleagues and partners working with rough sleepers. Following the government announcement that all who could be inside should be, 70 rough sleepers were accommodated within a short period. Support workers and security staff have worked tirelessly to support these arrangements along side hotel staff and management;
(m)As a consequence of reduced rough sleeping there has been a significant reduction in alcohol use, all rough sleepers have access to health care and treatment packages. Particular thanks go to partners Framework and Emmanuel House and The Community Trust. Nottingham City Council will be reviewing the services it offers to rough sleepers as a response to the crisis;
(n) A massive effort has been made by staff supporting businesses through the crisis with help with grant applications. Staff within Revenue and Benefits have continued to offer support as have Council Tax support workers and the Customer Hub;
(o) Special thanks to the very responsive City Centre teams, Environmental Health Officers, and Trading Standards Officers who have adapted and responded with speed in a changing environment as have bin collectors, park staff, and many others who have worked to ensure that outside spaces have remained safe and clean;
(p) The Council has received just under £20m in government grants to cover the cost of the response to Covid-19, however the associated cost is much higher and alongside the public health impact there has been and will continue to be an economic impact. There are many challenges ahead in terms of economic recovery;
The Leader of the Council, along with the rest of the Board, offered his condolences to the 300 families who had lost someone as a result of Covid-19.
The Board offered thanks to all staff and officers who have adapted, worked in unusual and difficult circumstances, and ensured that services for citizens were maintained.
The Interim Chief Executive echoed thanks to staff for the adaptability, flexibility and diligence of staff. She also offered thanks to Elected Members for their commitment, dedication and leadership through the crisis.
(1) Note the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 as highlighted in the published report;
(2) Comment on and consider actions undertaken by Nottingham City Council in response to the pandemic and considers whether there are future actions required in relation to the issues summarised in the published report; and
(3) Note that a separate report will be forthcoming in due course on the finances of the City Council and the action the Council will need to take to balance the budget.
Reasons for Decision
The nature and the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic has required the Council to reallocate vital resource rapidly to meet the needs of vulnerable residents and struggling businesses. The council has monitored and engaged with the Governments rapid and ongoing development of policy and guidance in the area in order to respond to statutory duties during the emergency.
Other options considered
There were no alternative options considered. The council has to comply with its statutory duties in order to meet the needs of citizens, business and the wider City.