Statement made by Councillor Mark Crane, Leader of Selby District Council, on COVID-19
The coronavirus outbreak is the biggest public health emergency in a generation. It calls for decisive action. I wish to offer as much clarity as possible about what Selby District Council intends to do to assist our residents and businesses at this time of uncertainty. Our initial plan is being delivered in a rapidly changing dynamic situation and it will be continuously reviewed and updated in light of government policy and actions. This plan will be delivered through our Better Together Partnership with North Yorkshire County Council and in partnership with our town and parish councils, voluntary and community sectors and all agencies and sectors in Selby district.
Our plan is as follows.
- Deliver our statutory responsibilities – to do all that we can within our resources, and within our ability, to protect the health and wellbeing of our population.
- Target our efforts on those who will most need our help and support – this includes the most 'at risk' groups, the elderly and those with pre-existing long term conditions through redeploying existing resource.
- Target support on other key vulnerable groups to reduce inequalities – we anticipate an increase in safeguarding and vulnerability issues as a result of self-isolation policies and challenges in safeguarding the health and wellbeing of groups at risk including the homeless, asylum seekers, those who use food banks, those at risk of domestic abuse and those with existing multiple and complex needs. We're working closely with providers and voluntary organisations.
- Co-ordinate our community response – working with North Yorkshire County Council to establish five Community Anchor Networks throughout the District who will coordinate local community support and ensure the safe and trusted access to community resources for the people and places they know best. The local community networks will effectively manage enquiries and offers of support to help maximise support for our communities, working alongside us and other voluntary and community organisation partners.
- Support our businesses – we are working with the LEP to support and advise businesses. We are lobbying Government for rapid implementation of Covid-19 budget decisions on business support and relaxation of a range of costs and requirements. The Government has announced further measures to provide grants to small businesses. The Government has pledged to provide £20 billion of business rates support and grant funding to help the most-affected firms to manage their cashflow through this period. We'll be in touch with eligible businesses as soon as possible and will be providing assistance, which will include
- 100% business rates relief for 12 months for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses;
- up to £25,000 grants to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with a rateable value of between £15,000 and £50,999;
- businesses eligible for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) will receive grants of up to £10,000: £5,000 business rates discount for public houses (increased from £1,000).
- We're working on revising annual bills which will be issued on 27th March. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will provide guidance for Local Authorities on how to administer these grants shortly.
- Enhance our workforce resilience and care for our staff – we are implementing our plans to deliver home working across all services, building upon our work on digital transformation and will prioritise the most critical services, redeploying resources accordingly.
- Support governance, decision making and community leadership – it was hoped that further guidance in the Coronavirus Bill would include legislative change to remove the requirement to meet face-to-face in order to take decisions at Executive, Council and Committees, which currently exists in the Local Government Act,1972. This has not been included in the Bill, therefore this has necessitated interim arrangements to be put in place . I am now working with the Chief Executive, using the urgency powers in the constitution, to deliver the business critical decisions . This means that all Council, Executive, Committee meetings, Community Engagement Forums and working parties are cancelled from today until Friday 15 May 2020. For clarity, decisions will still be taken. Executive decisions will be made by the Leader and regulatory decisions, including planning and licensing decisions, made by the Chief Executive.
- Capture financial and organisational impact – we will collate financial impact of additional burdens and loss of income for services to reduce organisational risk, and the impact of decisions taken by other organisations such as transport providers.
- Communication– we will use all channels to issue very regular updates on this plan and our delivery of it.
Our response to Covid-19 is the number one priority for Selby District Council from today for the foreseeable future.
We will do all in our power to delay and then mitigate its impact on our communities and our businesses. We recognise the scale of the challenge, and will do all we can to work through this, and ensure a positive future for our district.