To consider the report of the Managing Director.
Consideration was given to the report of the Managing Director.
At the invitation of the Leader, the Managing Director presented the report which confirmed the Council’s strategic response to the Covid-19 Emergency and to outline the next steps as Wales moved to the next phase of the pandemic, with easing of lockdown restrictions and a gradual restarting of services.
The Officer highlighted that in relation to the national emergency, the Council had set up its emergency planning arrangements in March 2020, as detailed in paragraph 2 of the report.
Section 3 of the report detailed some of the work that the Council had been undertaking during lockdown and that the focus had shifted to the delivery of only critical services with other available resources being redeployed to support the emergency response, those of which are detailed in paragraph 3.1 of the report.
The response to the emergency also involved school closures and school hubs were established to provide support to keyworkers. She reported that there had been good partnership working with schools, and the Council had continued to support families eligible for Free School Meals. The Council was currently supporting over 2000 families per week via direct payments.
The Managing Director then referred to paragraphs 3.4 to 3.9 which detailed the decisions the Council had made during the pandemic, e.g. the establishment of locality response teams to support vulnerable people in the community; and the support to the local business community through various Welsh Government grants. As an organisation the Council had also changed the way it operated, e.g. home working and the effective use of new technology, which had also been adopted by Members.
Highlighted in paragraph 3.10 of the report was how the pandemic had affected the workforce in the Council with high levels of absence at the start of the outbreak at around 18%, however, the most up-to-date figures showed that staff absence had reduced and was just below 3% of staff not available for work, largely owing to those who are shielded and unable to work from home.
Section 5 detailed the transition into the next phase, and how the Council could re-start its services whilst still being aware that the pandemic is not over. A Recovery Co-ordination Group had been established to lead the recovery work in Gwent the first meeting of which is on 24th June 2020 and Blaenau Gwent would then be establishing its own group.
As part of the next steps the Council would undertake a refresh of its corporate priorities to include what had been learnt over the last few months and the good practice to carry forward into the future.
The Managing Director concluded by highlighting that the Council needed to focus on the positive things that had happened, which included working with our partners and communities and referred to the recommendations in Section 7.
The Deputy Leader / Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development commented that the support that had been provided to businesses from the Regeneration Section had been fantastic, however, there was still a lot of work to do, and noted that the differences in the easing of lockdown between England and Wales had been confusing for businesses, e.g. when furlough would cease and the lifting of lockdown measures for those people on the shielded list.
He also highlighted the need for those staff who had been redeployed to be returned to their substantive posts as soon as possible to enable services to restart.
The Leader noted that it was an excellent report, and a brief snapshot of what officers and Members have been undertaking.
RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Executive approved recommendation:
· the approach to moving to the next phase of the pandemic and recovery;
· the refresh of the Corporate Priorities to ensure a clear focus on what the Council wants to deliver over next 18 months;
· the proposal to use the disruption of the pandemic to reflect on how we work as an organisation and with our communities, partners, workforce and trade unions, informing a position on the ‘new normal’ to support delivery of the refreshed priorities;
· supported the development of a wider place-based discussion with partners on the community impact of the pandemic and how the BG Public Service Board could respond and support recovery through its collective priorities and work programme;
· supported the development of an Economic Recovery Plan through engagement with the BG Enterprise Board and Regional Forums – identifying the responding to the impact on local businesses in order to support economic recovery; and
· Continue to ensure that Blaenau Gwent is an active participant in regional forums – such as G10 and Cardiff Capital City Region – to support recovery and development of the Borough.