The pandemic clearly requires a change in where and how we work. Essentially, all council staff are working from home and almost all work is online. The overall response to the pandemic is managed through the emergency response structure with a number of management ‘cells’ looking after a specific service area. County, district and other agency staff are working together: some have been re-deployed to teams where demand is high.
Officers have risen to the Covid-19 challenge; senior staff have a grip on their areas, a command of their subjects and are doing a good job.
There are some services where it is difficult to be sure what issues exist and why. The spread of the virus in care homes is such an area, but action to put the necessary testing in place has been taken. We are told that residents leaving hospital are now assumed to have the virus and are isolated until testing proves otherwise.
The government has reported the number of care homes which have suffered Covi19 outbreaks. In Mid Suffolk it is 55%. There were some 91 deaths in care homes across the county between April 4 and May 1. When Scrutiny looks at the quality of the Covid-19 response, we will examine these numbers and make comparisons.
The take up of school places for children of essential workers and those from disadvantaged families is low. That is a concern and the Children and Young People Service is trying to establish if the numbers can be improved.
Latest government and SCC advice is available online.
Council Meetings in the Covod-19 Era
Committee meetings ceased when lockdown commenced but briefings switched online. Now it’s legal to hold meetings online we are functional again. We held the first online Scrutiny meeting on Tuesday 12 May.
Online meetings appear to work well, certainly briefings and pre-meetings do. You will be able to participate in public meetings via the system we are using, Microsoft Teams Live. The link will be published on the committee agenda.
Walking and Cycling
Walking and cycling are vital for exercise and a safe way to get to work. To ensure that residents can exercise safely and maintain social distancing, my group are encouraging the council to close roads that are used by walkers and cyclists to get their daily exercise. It has responded by closing Ipswich Waterfront to through-traffic for three weeks.
Government grants are available for these actions and as I wrote this Grant Shapps was extolling the virtues of such action and of cycling and walking to work.
If you have suggestions for roads that could benefit from a closure, please let me know and I will pass it on to the Cabinet member.
During this period no one will be evicted for not paying Council Tax or rent to Mid Suffolk and the Communities team is giving help wherever it is needed. Families struggling with financial hardship are to be given further support to reduce Council Tax bills, with letters due to more than 4,000 households in Babergh and Mid Suffolk.
If you have any queries, please ring 07545 423808 or email: [email protected].