The Leader will inform the Council about his work and his plans for the Council, and will give an overview of decisions taken by the Cabinet (and Portfolio Holders) since the previous meeting of the Council
Covid-19 in Burton
“Since lockdown eased on 4 July there has been an increase in Covid-19 cases in East Staffordshire. There have been 58 positive cases in the district, almost all in Burton, of which 45 cases are in the areas of Anglesey, Horninglow and Shobnall. The County Council is working with East Staffordshire Borough Council, partners and most importantly the local community. We held our second virtual meeting yesterday afternoon to discuss how we spread the message, protect local people and avoid the restrictions we have seen for example in Leicester and Blackburn. This is about acting early to reduce the spread of infection. There are currently no plans for lockdown measures in Burton or anywhere in Staffordshire, however more robust localised measures will be considered if necessary.
Burton Covid-19 Rates and Cases:
· The current (15th-21st July) 7-day rate per 100,000 population is 21.8 in Burton-upon-Trent
· Current 7-day rate per 100,000 is 39.4 in Anglesey, Shobnall and Horninglow
· Current 7-day rate per 100,000 is 13.4 in East Staffordshire.
· For comparison, the current 7-day rate per 100,000 is 3.9 for Staffordshire and 5.3 for England.
In response, we are promoting public health messages through the media, social media, letters to homes and via word of mouth to prevent further spread of the infection. Information is available in different languages. We are analysing data every day and working with Public Health England (PHE) to investigate cases and their contacts to ensure isolation and testing messages are promoted. East Staffordshire Borough Council are visiting shops and businesses in the local area to reinforce messages. And we have set up three different testing facilities – a drive through at the Pirelli stadium, a walk-in centre at Uxbridge Road Mosque and an NHS team who can test people in their own homes.
We are acting now to contain the spread and are calling on all people to follow the guidance on Covid-19. Now is not the time to let our guard down and we are already seeing an amazing response from the community in Burton. Our message is that Covid-19 doesn’t care about culture, faith, or background so sticking to the rules and booking a test if you have symptoms is the best way to help protect yourself, your family and your community.”
(Paragraph 2 of the Statement)
(Paragraph 4 of the Statement)
In response to a question from Mrs Woodward concerning what the County Council and Clinical Commissioning Groups will do to increase capacity to be able to get Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) in place more quickly, Mr Price indicated that the County Council was doing a substantial amount of work behind the scenes on EHCPs and would welcome the opportunity to have a conversation about this with Mrs Woodward after the meeting.
The County Council’s Response to COVID-19
(Paragraph 5 of the Statement)
Mrs Atkins enquired as to the future sustainability of the care market in Staffordshire given the impact of Covid-19. In response, Mr Alan White stated that this was a concern; that the County Council was providing support to the sector; and that the situation would be closely monitored going forward.
Mr Robinson extended his thanks to all local government workers for their excellent work in keeping services in Staffordshire running, where this has been possible, during the current pandemic. He also enquired about the Government’s free laptop scheme and the forecasted need in Staffordshire verses the actual allocation. In response, Mr Philip White indicated that, in Staffordshire, 1694 laptops were provided by Central Government (which was in excess of the requests which had been received from schools) and over 300 wi-fi dongles were handed out to learners who did not have access to broadband. He also undertook to confirm the detail in writing to Mr Robinson following the meeting.
Members spoke about how local community groups, parish councils and volunteers had responded to the pandemic and the valuable contribution they had made during “lockdown”. They also praised “key workers” for their commitment and hard work, often under difficult circumstances.
Several Members highlighted the positive impact the Council’s Covid-19 Support Fund had had in supporting local community/voluntary groups and other organisations across Staffordshire and how, in some cases, a small grant had had a big impact.
I response to a question from Mrs Woodward about the Government’s announcement of a fund aimed at providing food and basic essentials for people during the Covid crisis, Mr Sutton indicated that Staffordshire had been awarded approximately £800,000, £600,000 of which would be distributed to the eight family hubs, £120,000 would go towards warehousing costs and the replacement of perishable goods and £100,000 was to be allocated for on-going food costs for district and borough councils. Mr Sutton also paid tribute to staff in the County Council and in partner organisations for the support they had given to families and communities including, for example, schools and early years providers who had stayed open in order to care for vulnerable children and the children of key workers.
Mr Alan White concluded by reminding Members that Covid-19 was still impacting communities, that it had not gone away and that was vital that people continued to follow the relevant protocols.
Staffordshire County Council’s iCare Campaign
(Paragraph 6 of the Statement)
Mrs Woodward referred to the number of people who had volunteered under the Council’s iCare Campaign and the fact that it was good that more people had volunteered than had actually needed to be deployed. She enquired as to, now that some of those volunteers would have returned to their day jobs, how many volunteers were still on the books should they need to be deployed if there was a second spike in Staffordshire. In response, Mr Alan White indicated that he did not have the relevant information to hand and would therefore respond to Mrs Woodward following the meeting.
(Paragraph 8 of the Statement)
Mrs Atkins enquired as to whether the County Council was in receipt of the Government’s Capital Grant Allocation to Schools. In response, Mr Price indicated that the Council was still awaiting confirmation of the allocation and that he would write to Mrs Atkins as soon as this had been received. He added that it was understood that an additional £1m of funding would be allocated for this area.
Mr Brookes referred to the poor physical condition of some of the schools in his division and also the need for capital investment at Thomas Alleyne’s High School in Uttoxeter which had 36 separate buildings.
Mr Pert referred to changes in the job market, the need for people to retain or reskill and the important role to be played by schools and colleges across the county.
(Paragraph 9 of the Statement)
Mr Brookes expressed his thanks to the Cabinet for their approval to the funding of approximately £370,000 of highway works in Uttoxeter which would improve traffic flows and pedestrian safety in the town. He did however indicate that there remained issues still to be addressed including the delay in replacing the bollard at the top of High Street, Uttoxeter on ongoing problems with blocked gullies.
Mrs Eagland referred to problems in her division caused by HGVs parking overnight along residential roads.
(Paragraph 10 of the Statement)
Mrs Atkins enquired as to whether the All Party Working Groups had a future and, if they were to continue, would their terms of reference be discussed with the opposition. She also asked about what role the Council’s Select Committees would have in scrutinising and monitoring the action plans which had come out of the last two groups. In response, Mr Alan White confirmed that the All Party Working Groups were to continue and that Members would be invited to join the Groups. He added that he would have a conversation with officers as to how the Council’s Select Committees would scrutinise the outcomes from the Groups.
Mr Robinson indicated that the Coronavirus pandemic had certainly helped to identify those individuals who were socially isolated and that community groups would now have more knowledge about those people than they have ever had before. He expressed the hope that those people would continue to receive support going forward.
Procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
(Paragraph 11 of the Statement)
Mr Deaville expressed his thanks to the Council’s Chief Executive and the Senior Management Team in taking the lead in procuring sufficient PPE to last for 12 weeks.
(Paragraph 13 of the Statement)
Mrs Woodward welcomed the proposed extensions to the Cannock Chase and Silverdale Enterprise Centres and enquired as to the review of vacancy rates at other Enterprise Centres, particularly those which were located in her Division. In response Mr Philip White indicated that the usage of all the Council’s enterprise centres was kept under review and that he would be happy to speak to Mrs Woodward about those located within her Division.
Mr Robinson enquired as to whether the County Council would commit to amending its procurement practices to ensure that local supplies and businesses had more opportunities to bid for contracts which would lead to more money being spent locally in Staffordshire. In response, Mr Alan White indicated that the Council’s procurement practices were laid out in the Constitution and were reviewed regularly by the Audit and Standards Committee.
Local Outbreak Control Plan
(Paragraph 15 of the Statement)
Mr Tagg commended the Local Outbreak Control Plan and the work of the Outbreak Control Boards. Mr Clarke expressed his thanks to the County Council for its support in responding to the recent Covid-19 outbreak in Burton upon Trent.
Mrs Jessel and Mr McMahon reminded Members that it was as important as ever that people took personal responsibility, stuck to the rules, washed their hands regularly, followed the latest advice on social distancing and co-operated with the test and trace service. Mr Alan White added that he would ask Members to continue to reinforce this message in their local communities.
Mrs Hood expressed her disappointment that some people going to public houses were failing to comply with the Government guidance on social distancing. She also praised the work of Stafford Borough Council’s Environmental Health Team.
(Paragraph 16 of the Statement)
Mrs Atkins indicated that she welcomed the comments the Leader of the Council had made about measures to support local businesses and echoed the views which had previously been made by Mr Robinson concerning ensuring that local supplies and businesses had more opportunities to bid for County Council contracts.
Mr Oates referred to the loss of big brands such as John Lewis in Tamworth and the impact this would have on the town and on Staffordshire. He, together with Mr Parry, referred to the challenges to the High Street as a result of internet shopping and the need for people to retrain or upskill in order to be able to compete for the better paid jobs.
Mrs Woodward enquired as to how the message was getting though to small businesses about the support available to them.
Mr Robinson referred to the potential job opportunities in the low carbon and renewable energy economy and the need for the County Council to ensure that Staffordshire residents were equipped with the necessary skills to be able to take advantage of those opportunities. Mrs Jessel added that she shared Mr Robinson’s views about the opportunities in the low carbon and renewable energy economy and that the County Council was continuing to work with business leaders, our universities and other public sector partners to grow Staffordshire’s economy and create more, better paid jobs.
Mr Francis spoke about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the tourism sector in Staffordshire and the downturn in manufacturing including the recent announcement of job losses at JCB.
Mr Philip White thanked Members for their comments. He added that Staffordshire had enjoyed low unemployment levels for a number of years and that the County Council had been working hard to attract more, better paid jobs to Staffordshire. Mr White also referred to the role of the Council in supporting Colleges and Universities to ensure that students were equipped with the necessary skills to enable them to compete for those new jobs; supporting local business; and attracting more businesses into the County.
RESOLVED – That the Statement of the Leader of the Council be received.