Labour councils and councillors across the country are doing all they can to focus on protecting their communities from the damage to life and livelihood caused by coronavirus. Labour councils and councillors are leading on crucial issues, such as supporting the voluntary sector and new community aid groups, safely discharging patients from hospital to free up beds, and establishing hubs to support people with long-term health conditions who will be asked to shield themselves form social contact.
All of this vital work is on top of their day-to-day work of overseeing adult and children’s social care, supporting schools and early years, and keeping neighbourhoods clean and safe. This work is a reminder of how important local government is to our country and also to our party. The contribution of Labour councillors and groups is absolutely crucial, and will be even more so in the weeks ahead as they seek to keep constituents safe and well from the spread of Covid-19.
I’ve already seen brilliant examples from around the country of Labour councillors in action and wanted to share some of those here.
Backing local businesses
Lancaster Council has set up a business support team to provide advice advice to businesses affected. They have set aside £1m to support businesses in addition to the government’s own package of measures. Environmental Health Officers have also put together some practical advice and information for food businesses and answer questions they may have about operating during the pandemic.
Wirral Council has moved swiftly to provide market traders relief from rent. Traders from Birkenhead’s historic market will not have to pay rent for the next three months as the council works to support them through the crisis. The rent relief, which took effect immediately, will relieve some pressure on traders as customers are forced to stay at home.
Labour-controlled Wolverhampton Council has taken a strategic, joined-up and public-health centred approach to organising support. They have been able to collaborate with the council’s public health department on a data-driven model using information available in primary care to identify people at risk and to offer them support. Alongside this, a Facebook group with more than 3,000 members has sprung up, and volunteers are being directed to where help is most needed.
The public health team at the Labour council, clinical commissioning group and NHS trust are in constant dialogue, and this information is being fed through to activists on the ground to assist decision-making. There is a genuine sense of collaboration springing up and a huge volunteer operation can be organised by the efforts that have been put in so far.
Bradford Council is also following this approach, teaming up with the NHS, Public Health England and the Voluntary sector to coordinate the best approach for people wanting to support efforts in their community, including collecting and delivering medication, pet care, checking in on vulnerable residents and adding capacity in key areas. They are also developing a smartphone app so volunteers can download information on how best to help and pinpoint where help is most needed.
Gedling Borough Council has committed up to £25,000 to buy supplies for the elderly after some shoppers ‘stripped’ supermarket shelves. They have written to the major supermarkets asking for them to put supplies aside for them to buy, in order to be distributed to vulnerable and elderly residents as and when necessary. Around 20% of Gedling’s population were elderly and some of them live alone, so this will provide a real help in the community.
Helping residents and the homeless
Islington Council has set up a Covid-19 task force to help homeless people. The council has convened a meeting with a series of local homeless charities and groups to ensure a collective approach to their efforts to support homeless people in their authority through this crisis.
Oxford Council has written to residents in council housing to offer reassurance and information on the support being provided to them by the local authority over the coming months. They are in the process of contacting all elderly and vulnerable tenants to make sure that they are okay, and to let them know about the services they can access for help and support. The Oxford Hub, a voluntary sector organisation, is coordinating volunteers across the city to help and support those who are elderly or vulnerable and are in self-isolation.
Bristol Council has waived fines for overdue library books alongside measures to keep services available where possible. Although not able to keep libraries open, they have ensured online services including ebooks, audio books and archives are available to residents.
Brighton and Hove Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority have lifted the time restrictions on their concessionary bus passes to make it easier for older citizens and disabled people to get their shopping.