Leader Statement - Managing the transition as stay-at-home guidelines eased
25 June 2020I recently updated you about our plans to build a stronger future for Cheshire West and Chester, and asked for your views about how we can work together to make that happen. Those conversations will be ongoing for some time, and I would encourage you to continue to share your ideas with us as we look to build a fairer, greener and even more prosperous borough in the months and years to come.
However, we also need to focus on the more immediate challenge of re-establishing services and public places in a way that continues to protect the health and wellbeing of everyone involved. As lockdown restrictions begin to ease, residents will see a range of businesses and public services start to re-open. Some will re-open in a broadly similar format to the way they operated before the pandemic - albeit with robust safety measures in place - but many will need to be delivered differently, and we have established a number of key principles that will guide how and when our services are re-established.
Our overarching priority is safety. Any decision to re-open a service or facility will be made with consideration of public health advice and local health information, including the overall trend of infections, hospital admissions, any community outbreaks and R-rate changes - and the scope in each case for effective physical distancing.
Services will not all re-open at the same time. There are different risks to public safety that need to be managed for each area, and the specific challenges relating to each individual service will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. This will also include the degree to which our residents - particularly our most vulnerable residents - rely on the services being considered.
Central government continues to publish national guidance designed to support the safe re-opening of services, public areas and businesses. However, different areas of the country are facing different challenges, and we will continue to prioritise local needs and risk factors as we decide the most appropriate approach to reinstating our services.
None of our buildings will fully re-open until we are confident that we can do so safely. We need to ensure that our staff and our visitors are effectively protected. This may mean that larger facilities, where measures can be more easily implemented, will re-open first; and we may also need to restrict the number of people using our buildings at any one time to make sure that safe conditions for our residents and staff can be maintained.
Engagement and Communications
As often as possible, we will speak to local people and businesses to discuss the options for safely re-establishing our services. We will clearly communicate our plans on a regular basis so that communities are informed of the latest position and are kept as up-to-date as possible.
New Ways of Working
Not all services will re-open in exactly the same way that they operated before. We will use the opportunity to consider new and innovative ways of providing services, which take account of what we have learned throughout the pandemic, the new conditions that we all face; and continue to meet the evolving needs of our residents.
Finally, we must be ready to adapt to changing circumstances. If there is evidence of an increase in local infection rates and a greater risk to public safety - for example, as a result of more relaxed guidance in relation to shielded residents and the hospitality sector - then we may choose to suspend or re-close services.
Above all, the health and wellbeing of everyone in Cheshire West and Chester will continue to be our absolute priority. We will of course continue to update you throughout this process - and I would like to thank you all for your patience at this challenging time.