Agenda item

Any other business which by reason of special circumstances the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency.

Minutes:

Covid-19 Update

The Chief Executive advised that the Director (Corporate Services) had been tasked with keeping Councillors apprised of actions and issues and the Chief Executive was responsible for communications to staff. The Council’s Management Team met daily to consider new announcements from the Government and a number of different work streams had been set up. For example, there was a resilience work stream with regard to home working and compliance with Government guidance. A third of Council staff were currently working from home on a week on week off rota basis. New categories of vulnerability were being identified and the Government would be sending out letters to 1.5 million people in the UK the first of which would be delivered the next day who would then have to stay indoors for the next 12 weeks. These people would need a great deal of support. The Government guidance on this had not yet arrived.  Another work stream was how to provide support to all vulnerable people in the Borough and those over the age of 70 years. The Government had announced a great deal of support for example, for businesses who would be offered a Business Rate relief and grants etc and the Council was making preparations to roll out this relief to businesses as quickly as possible when the funding from Government was received.

The Chief Executive also advised of the following:

·         £1billion of hardship support would be made available to people in real financial difficulty. However, Government guidance on how this funding was to be used had not yet been received.

·         Issues had arisen about the closure of businesses and emergency regulations had been published in relation to Environmental Health and Trading Standards services which would enable officers to use prohibition powers and to issue fines for non-compliance to public houses, restaurants etc.

·         There had been some modest changes to housing benefits and officers were working through this. Those making benefit claims were required to provide documents to support their claims and officers were considering using their discretion and asking claimants to submit their documents after the fact.

·         The Civic Centre had been closed to the public as reception and other frontline staff had struggled to persuade people to maintain social distance.

·         Some local authorities had closed their parks including the Royal Parks, to the public. The Council did not consider this measure a necessity in the Borough at the present time.

·         Many local authorities were also closing children’s play areas because of concern about social distancing. This subject would be discussed further at tomorrow’s meeting of Management Team.

·         One of the side effects of home working had been an increase of parking on residential streets and some local authorities had chosen not to take enforcement action. The Council intended to take enforcement action in the case of pinch points and access for emergency vehicles and common sense would be applied.

The Chief Executive concluded that it was a very busy time for officers and it would not be viable to give Members a daily update. Tribute was paid to the officers of the Council for all their hard work in an unprecedented situation.

The Director (Corporate Services) noted that it now recognised that the 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday was no longer reserved work time and the resilience team was working all hours. In the present circumstances the conventional out of hours service would not work and improved resilience arrangements were being put in place.

Chief Executive

The Chair noted that David Hughes last day as Chief Executive was 31st March 2020 and Stuart Bobby would be assuming the role of Chief Executive from 1st April 2020 as planned. However, David Hughes had offered to stay on for an additional month to assist the Council in coping with the current situation and the Chair expressed his appreciation. The Chief Executive had cancelled his farewell gathering. However, Cabinet wished to thank him for everything he had done for the Council and presented him with a small gift in the shape of a suitably engraved sterling silver Scottish Quaich which represented the gift of friendship. The Chair hoped that the Chief Executive to come back later in the year to celebrate his retirement.

The Chief Executive thanked Members and advised that they could not have made a better choice of gift and stated that it had been a privilege to work at Gravesham.

Cllr Thandi advised that the Sikh Vaisakhi community event had had to be cancelled but he intended visit the Civic Centre to present a gift to the Chief Executive.