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Cabinet Members review NFDC's response to Coronavirus

New Forest District Council's Cabinet have reviewed the authority's response to the Coronavirus at their meeting on 6 May 2020. As part of the Council's response to Coronavirus, the meeting was the first of the authority's public meetings to take place virtually via Skype with full cabinet, members and officers present.

The meeting was also live streamed on YouTube for public viewing. You can watch the recording online at 

Council Leader, Cllr Barry Rickman said, "Our role in supporting our communities and local economy will stay an important one in the coming weeks and months and we have started our preparations to be ready for the next phase when lockdown restrictions are eased so that we are ready when we get government guidance."

Each of the eight Portfolio Holders on NFDC's Cabinet reviewed actions for the areas they are responsible for, such as housing, environment, and the economy, and have now set up new task and finish groups to oversee the longer-term work of the Council in responding to the impact of the pandemic. 

Bob Jackson Chief Executive, said, "Actions taken, and services provided, by this council since the middle of March saw us quickly adapt to ensure the district's residents have been able to continue to access essential services and assistance, such as refuse collections, homelessness support, community alarms, and benefits.

"Business as usual alongside our new work and amidst the context of Coronavirus has not been easy but we knew from the outset it would be crucial for us to continue with key services as the need for those does not simply go away.   I am immensely proud of all staff and councillors who have risen to this challenge, and residents and customers who have supported us." 

Read summaries of each portfolio review below:

Cllr Barry Rickman, Leader's portfolio, Community matters

"I am so proud of the people in our towns and villages rising to the challenge to help those who need it the most.  These unprecedented times demonstrate the incredible good will that exists in our communities. We are working closely to national government guidelines, and with others in our community, coming together to help and support you all, prioritising essential services. We have a new service to protect the most vulnerable in our community with food packages, prescription collections and social contact, we have so far paid £350,000 from a hardship fund to households in need, distributed over £33million in business support grants and our staff from across the council have retrained to enable us to keep our Careline, waste collections and other essential frontline services operating for everyone."

Cllr Diane Andrews, Community affairs

"It is heartening to see our communities pulling together in these challenging times, through organised groups or supporting neighbours, family and friends. We are working with our county council and community partners locally to support our most vulnerable residents, including those taking shielding measures with no family or friends to support them. In three weeks, our team of staff volunteers at our shielding hub made 159 food parcel deliveries, and continue to provide ongoing support and weekly deliveries to around 40 households.  

Our community safety team and Safer New Forest Partnership continue to focus on maintaining a safe place for all who live and work here. And thanks to many of our staff retraining to work where they are needed most, we've been able to continue to provide essential services that keep our communities safe, including CCTV and our vital Appletree Careline 24 hour community service."

Cllr Jill Cleary, Housing

"The coronavirus pandemic has brought its own particular challenges for people in housing need, and we continue to do our utmost for those within our communities at this difficult time. Our homelessness team have ensured that all known rough sleepers, and displaced people, have been offered a safe place to stay. We're providing advice and assistance to households facing homelessness and are working with local accommodation providers to offer accommodation to those in need.  We continue to provide key services to our tenants, and are supporting those concerned about paying rent. Essential repairs, maintenance and gas safety inspections on homes have continued wherever possible, and we've introduced measures that will allow new tenants to safely move into our empty properties. Looking forward, we are continuing to work on bringing more Council temporary accommodation on board as well as building new council homes."

Cllr Michael Harris, Economic development

"I am both proud and amazed at the speed with which our teams have been able to react to the effects of COVID-19 on the businesses of the New Forest. Our focus is to ensure that our local businesses have been connected with all the government support available to them.  So far we've paid out more than £33.375million of grants to over 2,742 businesses and are working with the Local Enterprise Partnership to open new funding streams for affected businesses that fall outside the scope of Government grants. Our support and advice for businesses continues through a dedicated advice line, newsletters and the New Forest Business Partnership's weekly virtual business support workshops.  We are in touch with local businesses daily to ensure that they are accessing support packages and resources available from our partners at a local, regional and national level, and providing the latest guidance as the situation changes."

Cllr Jeremy Heron, Finance, investment and corporate services

"In this very difficult time, financial wellbeing is a concern for many in the New Forest. We have been focusing our efforts on providing financial support and flexibility swiftly to those affected, and on continuing to provide our vital services throughout the disruption.   

We've offered a range of options for those struggling to pay their council tax or rent, with flexible payment schemes, hardship grants and council tax reductions for those who need it most. We've advised on a range of benefits and financial assistance available and we distributed nearly £25 million in vital business support grants to nearly 2,000 businesses within 7 days of us receiving the

funding.  Thanks to investment in our own ICT systems enabling remote working for our teams, we've been able to safely and efficiently provide continuity of council services to our residents."

Cllr Alison Hoare, Environment

"Keeping our refuse and recycling collections going, and our local environment safe and clean, has been more important than ever during this health crisis.  We have prioritised kerbside collections of household waste - black and clear sacks and glass collections - throughout these difficult times. We have been able to resume our garden waste collections, after a short suspension, partly thanks to nearly 50 staff retraining from other departments to boost our resources. Our operations to keep public areas clean and tidy have been revised, adapting to changes in people's exercise regimes. We've closed public toilets and play areas in line with the Government's 'stay at home' advice, to discourage non-essential journeys and uphold social distancing. Meanwhile, our food inspection team, initially tasked with ensuring food businesses comply with closure orders, have since provided vital support for the New Forest's pubs and restaurants who have diversified into take-away services."

Cllr Mark Steel, Leisure and wellbeing

"As health and wellbeing is at the forefront of everyone's mind during these troubling times, our teams continue to contribute to the wellbeing of the district, despite our leisure facilities being necessarily closed to the public. We're continuing to provide exercise advice and resources to our residents and customers, through online resources from Les Mills and the NHS and through our social media communities. Our facilities are providing a base for the council's essential local response centre, coordinating and assembling food parcels and support for those in the district who need it most. Many of our leisure staff have volunteered to be redeployed to keep essential council services running, including CCTV, the local response centre and waste services.  While we are responding to the current situation, we are also looking forward and planning measures to safely reopen our facilities for our customers once restrictions are lifted."

Cllr Edward Heron, Planning and infrastructure

"The coronavirus pandemic has necessarily changed the way that all of us live and work. While many of our services are continuing as usual, such as processing planning and tree work applications, we have adapted others, such as car parking, to respond to current needs. To support key workers and volunteers who need to access vital supplies, our town and village car parks remain open and are now free to use. However, we've closed all our coastal car parks to discourage unnecessary travel and keep everyone safe.  I am thankful to our Parking Enforcement staff and all those who have retrained to essential services that need them the most, including upholding social distancing measures on our coasts and working within the shielding hub, delivering food parcels to the most vulnerable in our community."

Read full report at 

Updated: 6 May 2020
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