The Chairman indicated that the Committee had looked at the Council’s response to COVID-19 in June and requested an update for its July meeting.
The Leader of the Council introduced the item. With reference to the easing of the lockdown since the Committee’s June meeting, the Leader of the Council noted the successful reopening of businesses in Guildford town centre. She identified the need to ensure vulnerable residents continued to receive help at a time when support for large numbers of people was being withdrawn, in addition to being prepared for a surge or second wave in COVID-19. The Leader of the Council advised the Committee of the desire to maintain the community spirit within the Borough as the impacts of COVID-19 changed.
The Managing Director gave a presentation recapping the initial response to COVID-19 and identifying current issues. In a summary of the response, the Managing Director provided details of the food parcels and prescriptions delivered, the operation of a vulnerable persons helpline, welfare checks for shielded and vulnerable residents, and the extension of the meals on wheels service. The Committee was advised that grants, advice, and support had been provided to local businesses. The Committee was reminded that the Council’s response included the introduction of virtual meetings and the redeployment of staff alongside the maintenance of essential services.
With reference to current COVID-19 issues, the Managing Director advised the meeting of the development of the Surrey Local Outbreak Control Plan and the establishment of the Surrey Local Outbreak Engagement Board. The Committee was advised that the Council’s activities were risk assessed to ensure safety for staff, visitors, and residents.
With reference to a query raised at the previous meeting of the Committee about the number of local businesses struggling and the forecast extent of redundancies, the Managing Director indicated that he was unaware of major job losses locally although there had been an impact in the retail sector. The Committee was informed that an impact was to be expected once theCoronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme reduced or ended. The Managing Director stated that approximately twenty percent [15,400] of the working age population in Guildford were on the furlough scheme and approximately 4,800 people in the Borough had claimed grants through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
In concluding his presentation, the Managing Director noted the litter anti-social behaviour campaign launched recently in the Borough, the continuation of support and services for the most vulnerable, the review and recovery of Council services, and new ways of working.
The Chairman thanked the Managing Director for his presentation and invited questions from the Committee members.
In reply to a question about a date for the full re-opening of the Council offices to the public, the Managing Director referred to government guidance and confirmed the situation was being monitored.
In response to a question, the Managing Director undertook to arrange for details of the current homelessness situation in the Borough to be provided to Committee members.
A member of the Committee asked about the known impact of the COVID-19 emergency on voluntary and faith organisations in the Borough. The Community Wellbeing Manager updated the Committee on the situation and indicated that it was not clear where funding for the recovery of the voluntary and charity sector would come from. She advised the Committee that a more accurate assessment of the impact on the sector would be possible in 3-6 months.
RESOLVED: That regular updates on the response to COVID-19 continue to be provided to Committee meetings.