STATEMENT FROM LEADER OF THE COUNCIL, CLLR MIKE STEPTOE, AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, SHAUN SCRUTTON 23.03.2020

Date: 
Monday, March 23, 2020
 
 
Updates from Rochford District Council 
 
Council meetings
The Local Government Association is liaising directly with MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Govt) regarding councils’ normal democratic processes, and how these can operate when Councillors are unable to meet in person. It is expected that these issues will be dealt with in the Coronavirus Bill. The LGA’s (Local Govt Association’s) legal team is engaging with monitoring officers and will share further advice with councils as and when it becomes available. 
In the meantime, we continue to keep our planned Full Council meeting on 26th March under daily review and are actively exploring use of other venues which will allow us to practice social distancing if a face to face meeting does go ahead. We are also reviewing existing delegations.
 
Community support 
Our website has been updated to include contact details of various community groups.
MHCLG has made it clear that all councils will be expected to stand up designated community hubs and this is a key strand of the Essex Resilience Forum work. In our district Rochford District Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community, Cllr Mike Webb, will be working with Essex County Council, RRAVS (Rayleigh Rochford and District Association for Voluntary Service) and the CEO of the Megacentre, Rayleigh, to kick start this work. 
We need to ensure coverage across the whole district, so Councillors have been advised to share knowledge so that they can work together to organise community hubs across their own localities. Funding will be coming from Government to upper tier authorities to support these designated community hubs, so it is important to get organised now. Cllr Webb has reached out to all group leaders and independent members to co-ordinate the response for Rochford district. Ward members are asked to collate information from local volunteers and link in with Cllr Webb to ensure the district wide response is fully joined up.
Please be aware that some unscrupulous people are taking advantage of the current pandemic, especially to target vulnerable people. If you become aware of any suspicious activity, please notify the police via 101.
 
Car parks
As a result of staff self-isolation, the council is unable to issue/print car park permits at this point and so for customers phoning to pay for a renewal, we are processing their applications but advising them to keep the expired permit in the vehicle which will be honored. Their new permit will be sent to them when we are able to process the applications. Unfortunately, new applicants will need to purchase daily tickets/phone sessions until further notice. We are working on a solution to this. 
Council open spaces and parks
Although getting outside will help with physical and mental health, the unseasonably good weather over the weekend resulted in the congregation of people in parks, open spaces and sea fronts. The Prime Minister is clear that the public can expect to see increased social distancing rules and enforcement of those rules if the public does not follow the existing guidance and stay at least 2 metres away from one another. At this time, the council’s parks and open spaces currently remain open to the public for use – so long as residents continue to practice social distancing (see below) and not, for example, congregating around play equipment. We have not relaxed car parking charges because we do not want to incentivise unnecessary visits. 
Fusion Lifestyle
In line with Government announcement on Friday night regarding new requirements of social distancing, the council’s leisure sites are closed to the public. For further information go to https://www.fusion-lifestyle.com/
 
 
Updates from Government:
 
Government announces further measures on social distancing 
On Friday evening the Government announced a series of additional measures to stop non-essential contact and unnecessary travel, in line with the public guidance announced earlier in the week. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-announces-further-measures...
The measures (see below) will be reviewed on a monthly basis and are being implemented across the whole of the UK in agreement with the devolved administrations. If needed, the government will enforce these measures by law. This will not affect supermarkets or retailers that supply fuel, medicines and other vital goods, which will continue to be open as normal for the public.  
 
Travel 
This guidance is for people planning to visit second homes or holiday premises during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/covid-19-essential-travel-guidance
Essential travel does not include visits to second homes, camp sites, caravan parks or similar, whether for isolation purposes or holidays. People should remain in their primary residence. Not taking these steps puts additional pressure on communities and services that are already at risk.
 
Business
Government has issued guidance to UK businesses trading internationally about advice and financial support from the Department of International Trade. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance...
On Friday, the Chancellor issued new measures to support businesses and other venues subject to further social distancing measures:
The following businesses are now required not to sell food or drink for consuming on the premises:
Restaurants, including restaurants and dining rooms in hotels or members clubs;
Cafes, including workplace canteens, but not including cafes or canteens at a hospital, care home or school;
prison and military canteens;
services providing food or drink to the homeless; and
Bars, including bars in hotels or members’ clubs.
The following businesses must remain closed:
Public houses;
Cinemas;
Theatres;
Nightclubs;
Bingo halls;
Concert halls;
Museums and galleries;
Casinos;
Betting shops;
Spas;
Massage parlours;
Indoor skating rinks; and
Indoor fitness studios, gyms, swimming pools or other indoor leisure centres.
 
These businesses and other venues must close as they involve prolonged close social contact, which increases the chances of infection spreading.
 
Takeaway and delivery facilities should remain open and operational. This means people can continue to enter premises to access takeaway services, including delivery drivers. Planning regulation will be changed to enable restaurants, cafes and pubs which do not currently offer delivery and hot food takeaway to do so. This will be clearly communicated by the government when in effect.
 
Those venues offering takeaway or delivery services must not include alcoholic beverages in this list if their license does not already permit. Any forthcoming changes to licensing for delivery and takeaway will be clearly communicated by the government.
These measures will be reviewed every 28 days to consider their necessity and effectiveness, in light of changing circumstances. The government will look for opportunities to phase out their application as the situation improves.
As of 2pm on 21 March 2020, closures are now enforceable by law in England and Wales due to the threat to public health. A business operating in contravention of the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closures) Regulations 2020 will be committing an offence. As agreed with the devolved administrations these measures will be extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland by Ministerial Direction once the Coronavirus Bill is in force.
 
Environmental Health and Trading Standards officers will monitor compliance with these regulations, with police support provided if appropriate. Businesses that breach them will be subject to prohibition notices, and potentially unlimited fines. As a further measure, and if needed, businesses that fail to comply could also face the loss of their alcohol license. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-sets-out-plans-to-enforce-...
 
Her Majesty’s Treasury also announced on 20 March 2020 a comprehensive series of measures supporting wages, cash-flow for businesses, and the welfare system. More information will be shared as soon as it is available from Government. 
 
Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant
In England, under the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) announced on Monday March 16, businesses in England in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors will be eligible for cash grants of up to £25,000 per property. Eligible businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of up to £15,000 will receive a grant of £10,000. Eligible businesses in these sectors with a property that has a rateable value of between £15,001 and £51,000 will receive a grant of £25,000. Businesses with a rateable value of over £51,000 are not included in this scheme. Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April and the Council will be in touch with eligible businesses on how the grant will be paid. We will provide a further update on our website once available. For more information please visit gov.uk or the Council’s website page https://www.rochford.gov.uk/BusinessAdviceCoronavirus
 
 
Business Rates 
In England, as announced on Monday 16 March, the government will provide a business rates holiday for businesses in the retail, hospitality and/or leisure sector. This includes the businesses in scope for closure listed above. As the Council has already printed and posted the business rate bills for 2020/21, unfortunately it is too late to alter these to reflect the changes. We will be sending new bills out as soon as possible and will provide a further update on our website once available. For more information please visit gov.uk or the Council’s website page https://www.rochford.gov.uk/BusinessAdviceCoronavirus
 
Welfare and benefits 
The following link contains information for a range of extra support and measures that will be put in place to help workers, benefit claimants and businesses affected by COVID 19. 
New shielding requirements for extremely vulnerable people
This guidance is for people, including children, who are at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 because of an underlying health condition, and for their family, friends and carers. This group of people is being strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for a period of at least 12 weeks.
It is intended for use in situations where the extremely vulnerable person is living in their own home, with or without additional support. This includes the extremely clinically vulnerable people living in long-term care facilities, either for the elderly or persons with special needs. Shielding is a measure to protect people who are clinically extremely vulnerable by minimising all interaction between those who are extremely vulnerable and others. Government is strongly advising people with serious underlying health conditions (listed in the guidance) which put them at very high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to rigorously follow shielding measures in order to keep themselves safe.
The NHS in England is directly contacting people with these conditions to provide further advice. If anyone thinks you fall into one of the categories of extremely vulnerable people listed above and they have not received a letter by Sunday 29 March 2020 or been contacted by their GP, they should discuss their concerns with their GP or hospital clinician.
 
Schools
Further details on arrangements for exams which have been cancelled to fight spread of COVID 19. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/further-details-on-exams-and-grades-a...
 
Ibuprofen
There is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make COVID-19 worse. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/ibuprofen-use-and-covid19coronavirus
Online isolation notes launched - providing proof of coronavirus absence from work
People unable to work for more than seven days because of coronavirus (COVID-19) can obtain an isolation note through a new online service. https://www.gov.uk/government/news/online-isolation-notes-launched-provi...
 
NHS advice
Everyone is reminded to follow the NHS advice which includes preventative measures about social distancing and stay at home guidance. 
 
Please use our website!
Don’t forget a lot of useful content is available via our website and this will be updated regularly, so www.rochford.gov.uk is the best place to check first and we have a dedicated section at www.rochford.gov.uk/coronavirus. Our other media channels are also good sources of information - www.rochford.gov.uk/tellmemore, Facebook:  Rochford District Council, Instagram @RochfordDC and Twitter @RochfordDC
 
We would like to reassure everyone that we are working closely with our partners from across Essex in the NHS, emergency services, county council and other local authorities, ensuring that well-practised plans are put into place.
 
Daily updates
The council is monitoring Government guidance daily and will be issuing communications to staff, members and the public with increasing regularity but in the meantime, please watch our website, sign up for e-mail alerts or go to our social media channels to keep up-to-date with the latest information.