Issue - meetings

Review of the council's response to the Covid-19 pandemic

Meeting: 01/03/2022 - Cabinet (Item 6)

6 Summary of the Council's Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic March 2020 to February 2022 pdf icon PDF 620 KB

Report of the Leader of the Council


Appendix 2 to follow

Additional documents:




1.    ‘The Council’s Response to the Covid-19 Pandemic’ at Appendix 2 be approved for external publication.


The Leader of the Council presented the report, noting that it highlighted the enormous changes that needed to be made at a very fast pace at the start of the pandemic. This included moving seamlessly to virtual committee meetings by May 2020 to restore full political decision-making following the March lockdown. Over 90% staff were working from home by April 2020, making full use of the new technology introduced prior to Covid-19 as part of the council’s modernisation agenda.

Staff wellbeing was an essential part of the pandemic response, and the latest survey showed that 94% of staff felt they were supported and had enough contact with their team or line manager and could raise any issues with them. 87% of staff were having either daily, twice a week or weekly contact with their line manager, and 92% of staff felt they had the technology to stay connected and do all aspects of their role effectively.

At the height of the pandemic, the Building Control Service introduced virtual inspections with the aid of video apps, allowing site operations to continue where necessary under the restrictions whilst ensuring building standards were satisfied. Recycling rates continued to improve throughout, going from 51.23% at the end of 2019/20 to 53.98% at the end of September 2020, thanks to the strong partnership the council had with Ubico.

She added that Covid-19 had presented particular challenges in tackling rough sleeping. The Housing Options Team made 125 placements into hotels for rough sleepers by August 2020, and by September 2020 had eliminated the need for hotel accommodation altogether.

Business support was another essential part of the council’s response. Recognising the worry businesses had due to loss of income, the council had used its own cash reserves to ensure grant payments could be allocated as rapidly as possible. They were ultimately the first authority in the UK to commence grant payments, and as a result they received a Community & Business Champion Award from Punchline magazine.

The council had also responded proactively to the potential dangers of a ‘postcode lottery’ of business grants, by bringing together district councils in the Discretionary Business Grant Scheme in less than three weeks. Working on advice from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and local Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), they created a scheme that ensured both consistency of criteria and maximum impact.

The Revenues & Benefits team had continued to establish grant schemes to ensure that businesses in need received support. In December 2021, another scheme was rapidly set up with a new round of the discretionary business grants, offering financial support to pubs, clubs, bars, restaurants and travel businesses. In total, the council had distributed 10,637 grants since the start of the pandemic, totalling £48,686,982.

The council had also been one of the first in the country to publish its recovery strategy, featuring a number of initiatives to support economic growth. These included the Big Screen, supported by the government’s Welcome Back fund, which was estimated to have generated between 5,000 and 10,000  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6