20 March 2020
We recently set out a vision in our new Council Plan to build the strongest possible relationships with every community, family and resident, so that more of us can play our part. At no time will this be more important than it is today. Covid-19 represents a huge and unprecedented challenge to us all, and I know that many of you will be concerned about what it means for you and those close to you.
As a Council, our priority is to ensure that we target the resources we have at protecting those most at risk in our communities, while continuing to deliver key front-line services. This is a priority shared by our network of partner organisations across the public sector. We are all working together to fully understand the fast-developing situation that we face, and to respond to it as quickly and effectively as possible. We also continue to be supported by our fantastic voluntary and community sector, which is in regular dialogue with us and with many of our most vulnerable residents, providing advice and support to those who need it most.
All of us will undoubtedly face some difficult decisions over the coming weeks and months – professionally and personally. Services will need to be prioritised and delivered differently but please be reassured that the decisions we make as a local authority will be based on the most up-to-date information available, and with the best interests of our residents at the forefront of our minds.
As Leader of the Council, I firmly believe that we all have a role to play in supporting each other through this challenging time. I would therefore encourage you to continue to you to look out for your family, your friends and your neighbours, offer any help that you can, and to follow the advice provided by the NHS and Public Health England.
The approach we are taking as a local authority will remain under continuous review, but is broadly being guided by a five-point plan:
- Protecting our most vulnerable residents
Our key priority is to ensure that the health of our residents is protected, and we are in regular contact with Public Health England and the Government’s Chief Medical Officer. We also have strong relationships with our local health partners across the Borough, with a collective primary focus on providing practical support for all – but particularly our most vulnerable – communities across Cheshire West and Chester. This includes delivering the care services that we provide on a day-to-day basis and adapting to new challenges arising from Covid-19, such as increased loneliness and isolation created by the ‘social distancing’ measures recently introduced across the country.
I want to emphasise that I prefer the phrases ‘physical isolation’ or ‘physical distancing’. We need to continue, more than ever, to be good neighbours and encourage social interaction, albeit through safe measures and new methods of communication. We can also play our part to avoid behaviours of hoarding and panic buying, which undermine the support we need to provide to the most vulnerable. We are all in this together. Finally, we will continue to look at methods to protect and improve everyone’s mental health and wellbeing.
- Working with our communities
In partnership with the voluntary and community sector, including Cheshire West Voluntary Action (CWVA), we are co-ordinating a community response to Covid-19 with a webpage for people who want to help their local community: How you can help.
Once your interest is registered, CWVA will signpost you to opportunities available with local charities and community groups, and we have a dedicated team working to provide any additional support which is needed. This is a key way to play your part and all offers of support are welcome. We know many groups are already up and running and making a massive difference. We want to offer any support that will help you make the maximum difference.
- Supporting our local businesses and their employees
Across the Borough - as is the case across the country - businesses make a vital contribution to local economies, to local employment and in providing goods and services to communities. We therefore need to support all our businesses by providing them with support, advice and guidance at this challenging time, and we are working closely with the Chamber of Commerce, our Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and Marketing Cheshire to ensure that support is as clear and comprehensive as possible. We have set up a Business Response Working Group to deliver a series of key actions, and have developed a new webpage to provide businesses with practical advice on the Let's Talk Business website. This will be updated on an ongoing basis as the situation develops, including specific updates from Government. If you are a business owner, I would also encourage to register on the Let's Talk Business website to receive regular updates in relation to events, opportunities and further information on the provision of relevant Council services. We are also committed to supporting and directing help to our residents who may find themselves in financial hardship. To that end, we will share updates as they are provided by Government, and continue to review local provision to ensure that support is provided to local residents as quickly and effectively as possible.
- Keeping Council services running
As a Council, we provide a wide range of key services for businesses, communities and individual residents – and it is vital that these continue to run as close to normal as they can do. With that in mind, we are making sure that our workforce has the right support, guidance, tools and technology to perform their roles as effectively as possible, tailored to the nature of the services they provide. It is vital that this continues to reflect both the evolving needs of our residents and the personal circumstances of our staff, and this will be kept until continual review. Some services will need to be suspended for a period to free up resources for the most vulnerable, and this information will be shared with you through our website, social media and via the local press: Cheshire West and Chester Council website - Affected buildings and services (COVID-19).
- Communicating with our residents
Finally, clear and regular communication will be increasingly important for all of us over the coming weeks and months. We will continue to share the latest advice and guidance from Government, and how the Council and our partners are responding to it.
Updates will be provided on a regular basis through our Facebook and Twitter accounts and our new Covid-19 webpage - which includes up-to-date health advice, information regarding ongoing Council services and links to previous communications which you may have missed. We will also continue to work with key partners and businesses to help share these messages as widely as possible.