Leader’s update – Cabinet 1 June 2020

Published Tuesday 2 June 2020

Harborough District Council Leader Cllr Phil King gave the following update to Cabinet on 1 June 2020

Leader’s update – Cabinet 1 June 2020

During the current crisis the Leader and Shadow Leader have been briefed by the joint Chief Executives on a weekly basis.  Weekly updates have also been provided to both elected members and staff.  A full report on the impact and work to date will be considered at Council on 29 June 2020.

Community hub / community safety

Approximately 900 residents and families, across the Harborough district, have been helped though our community hub which is supporting those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Most of those (73%) have received food parcels, 10% have been helped with medicine, 5% loneliness and wellbeing support, 2% financial support, 1% housing, and 9% other help. Many more have been helped across Leicestershire and Rutland thanks to close working with our colleagues at neighbouring councils. Thank you to everyone involved in this combined and coordinated effort to help our communities at this hugely challenging time.  We also thank those who have shared such positive feedback with us.

A number of Community Safety Partnership meetings have been held to look at the night-time economy as the town centre looks to ‘re-open’. We will be engaging Harborough Against Retail Theft (HART), PubWatch, and rural pubs, as well as looking to join up with any wider initiatives. We are focusing on preventing anti-social behaviour and how we might deliver diversionary activities in this new climate. Although there has been no increase in crime figures of domestic abuse identified locally, we are promoting support channels for domestic abuse to ensure victims have the confidence and opportunity to come forward. We are also working with schools to ensure guidance is given for parents and children travelling to and from school safely.


Small Business Grants

The Government has been issuing the league table for the Small Business Grant scheme.

As of this last week; we’re pleased to say that HDC has maintained both its national and local positions i.e. 4th and 1st respectively. This is simply amazing; we are holding our own, and a big thanks to all concerned.

Due to our success in getting financial support to businesses; demand for grants has diminished, but we are continuing to support businesses as required.

Grants tableThe Government’s Discretionary Business Grants Scheme, which aims to help businesses which may not have been eligible for previous financial support, is also being launched over the coming days.

Financial impact of Covid-19

The Council is currently estimating that the cost of Covid-19 to the Council is £2.1m; a net of £1.1m after the funding received from the government.

As this is a national crisis, it is unfair that the local Council Tax Payer should be left to fund this gap.

As you will be aware, Harborough District Council has an exemplary record of good financial management and being entrepreneurial in the delivery of its services, this means that it has been able to maintain a prudent level of reserves that could, if necessary in the short term, meet this financial burden, which they are.

However, these reserves were prudently delivered by Council decision by local tax payers and businesses over many years for the purpose of delivering both transformational service change and for significant capital investments in our local community; they were not established to support a pandemic crisis.

I am continuing to lobby MHCLG and others for help to bridge the gap in funding for the District Council to ensure we can continue to deliver our Covid-19 response and to ensure that we can press ahead with the major investments that are needed in our local community.


Redeployment of staff

To help respond to the coronavirus pandemic; we redeployed nearly half of Council staff to help support vulnerable residents, food banks, business grants, homelessness, environmental crime patrols, medicine drops, and to keep the market food hall open. Alongside our own staff, the work of nearly 400 volunteers from the community has been pivotal in helping sustain many hundreds of people across the district during this pandemic. The positive feedback we are getting from those we are helping is heart-warming, and we will look to continue to deploy staff where needed and ensure that we help plug any gaps which may result if volunteers return back to work from 15 June.

Now we are in a very busy  Recovery Phase we are drawing on a large number of our officers for their experience and expertise to support the Crisis Management Group Recovery Cell to help move urgent work forward quickly and efficiently to ensure the Council is ready for the opening of our towns, villages and shops, adapting our support to communities as lockdown starts to ease and our staff receive the necessary wellbeing support to enable them to carry on providing valuable services in challenging times.   


Recovery plans

The Corporate Recovery Management Group is chaired by one of the Joint Chief Executives. Beneath that Recovery groups have been set up to look at the following key areas: environment and infrastructure (led by Tess Nelson); economy and finance (led by David Atkinson); humanitarian (led by Rebecca Jenner) and communities (led by Tom Day). These areas mirror those that the Local Resilience Forum is focussing on via the recovery structure that is being established across LRF-member agencies. The Council’s Recovery Cell Group meets twice-a-week to look at how we can work with communities as part of the challenging recovery process.  There are actions plans linked to each area, which have been collated very efficiently, and I would like to thank all staff involved for their excellent work on this.

The Council’s Recovery structure can be seen below:

Recovery cells

NHS Test and trace

The NHS has launched a test and trace service which ensures that anyone who develops symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19) can quickly be tested to find out if they have the virus. It helps trace close recent contacts of anyone who tests positive for coronavirus and, if necessary, notifies them that they must self-isolate at home to help stop the spread of the virus. It has been introduced to help return life to as normal as it can be, in a way that is safe and protects the NHS and social care. The service will trace the spread of the virus and isolate new infections and play a vital role in providing early warning if the virus is increasing again, locally or nationally.

Full details are available here

I have asked officers to ensure that the Director Of Public Health engages with district councils in the development of Local Outbreak Plans, which will outline measures to manage sporadic local Covid-19 surges as the economy is reignited, particularly in relation to care homes, schools, and other locations of high risk e.g. refuges and shelters.   

I have asked officers to prepare a full report on the impact and work to date which will be considered at Council on 29 June 2020.