Council Report dated 29 May 2020
This morning we had a briefing on the financial position of the Council in the light of Covid19.
In a nutshell, the effect of Covid on Cornwall Council may possibly be roughly twice as much as the money received from central government. As well as the money we have spent directly on Covid measures (including £1.6 million on PPE) it also includes lost income (eg carparking & other charges) and lost council tax and business rates. Central government have given 2 grants adding up to £34.4million. That leaves a large budget hole. At the beginning of this process central government promised they would make sure local authorities’ costs were covered. Lately the language has changed to ‘burden-sharing’. The council will review this year’s budget in July.
This article by John Harris interviewing our Labour LGA leader, Nick Forbes gives an idea of the impact on local government - https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/may/25/pandemic-failings-centralised-state-councils-coronavirus?CMP=share_btn_tw
There will be a full council meeting (finally) in early July and cabinet will meet on 17 June. Both virtually. There should be arrangements in place for public attendance and questioning to take place at those online meetings.
Scrutiny committees will meet informally in June to set revised work plans for resuming normal meetings, virtually if necessary, in July. We intend to scrutinise the Covid response. On Health Scrutiny, I am particularly concerned that we make sure our local test and trace response is up and running ASAP, now that the government have rushed out their centralised, privatised Test and Trace programme (most likely to take attention away from the Dominic Cummings debacle).
The council have found emergency housing for 230 people during the Covid crisis. Plans are in place to find move on accommodation so people don’t end up back on the streets when lockdown is lifted. They are hoping to hire extra staff to support people into new accommodation. I am still looking for accommodation nearer to Falmouth as well as that coming online in Penzance and Truro.
If anyone has questions, the Covid email response - Covid19@cornwall.gov.uk is still up and running, or contact me on email@example.com
Labour Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
This week has been busy.
The Devon and Cornwall Local Resilience Forum has finally set up a ‘test, track and trace cell’. We haven’t had our Health and Social Care Scrutiny formal meetings but have still been asking questions and have been briefed by the various different ‘cells’ who are running Cornwall’s Covid response and I was relieved that our local Public Health team look to be taking the initiative here. Labour have been pushing for local authority Public Health teams to be involved in testing, tracking and tracing rather than leaving it to Serco! At last Regional Public Health has been asked to get involved, but it still seems painfully slow and it will be amazing if the whole system is up and running by 1 June as Boris Johnson rashly promised under questioning at PMQs.
Testing in care homes is also beginning to happen. Tests are being couriered to and from homes and results times are speeding up now. There is still a way to go to have everyone in care homes and working there tested by early June.
It still knocks me sideways that people were discharged from hospitals to care homes in early April with their Covid status unknown due to the government guidelines.
Cornwall Council’s Policy on schools restarting for Yrs R, 1 & 6 has been to offer help to schools but not give them any firm guidance. Labour’s policy is that schools should not open until it is safe to do so and we have made that clear locally and nationally. It was lovely to get a letter from the shadow education secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey and Labour Local Goverment lead, Nick Forbes, supporting councillors in this last night.
The council has started the business grant scheme mark 2. If you know of someone with a local business who is suffering due to Covid and may need to apply through the scheme, please direct them here - https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/smallbusinessgrant
I have been working with local businesses about waste collection during the crisis which has led to the idea of waste/resource collectives as part of the Circular Falmouth initiative. We are also looking to open up the town centre during recovery to people and businesses and use public space and highways for people to safely social distance. This will also hopefully happen in 4 other Cornish towns.
Labour Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
Centrally run, temporary, mobile testing sites are being established for keyworkers at Bude and Penzance this week. Careworkers and care home residents should be able to access testing by delivery or at a mobile site. They should all be tested by early June. Please let me know if you have information that suggests this is not happening. We are not hearing good reports about the speed of getting results.
Tracking and tracing is going to be organised by central government too, although some help has been requested from regional Public Health. Labour have suggested that local authority Public Health staff, with all their local knowledge and expertise, should work on this. Cornwall’s Director for Public Health has offered Cornish staff to carry out tracing here. We were told by our Public Health Director at Cornwall Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee on 11 March that although we then had 5 cases of Covid19 in Cornwall, wecould not use our own resources to make sure the people who may have been infected were warned and told to isolate. Now we hear that the contract for the 18,000 staff to work on tracking and tracing across the whole of the UK is to be given to one company. The tracers will receive one day’s training. That company is Serco. Memories of their out of hours doctors’ service in Cornwall do not inspire great confidence in their ability to keep us safe from coronavirus.
To date, Cornwall Council has had to spend £1.6 million on PPE for Cornish workers due to supply failures in the central system and a lack of stored PPE and have distributed it free of charge. The supply chain is still not firm, but is stabilising.
The council is waiting for container units to arrive for Penzance and Truro so that more people who are homeless can be accommodated. The government money was paid in one chunk and there will be no more funding. However, the people who are housed now will be hopefully be able to access move on accommodation when this is over. The containers are likely to be permanently bought by CC to provide some extra emergency accommodation.
There is another £14 million of business grants coming for businesses who share workspace or B&Bs or who missed out in the first round. We are waiting for details of eligibility.
Household waste recycling centres open from 19 May on a quite complicated arrangement - https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/environment-and-planning/recycling-rubbish-and-waste/household-waste-and-recycling-centres/household-waste-and-recycling-centres-covid-19-update/
Labour Cornwall Councillor for Falmouth Smithick
This blog will be created by members of the Exec committee on topics of interest to the St Austell & Newquay Labour Party