In proposing the motion the Leader praised, in particular staff in the health and social care sector, the community support network, and council staff for maintaining services in challenging circumstances. He recognised the huge effort locally in administering business grants and national support for those on the shielding list. The Cheltenham Community Help Hub was working with its partners the Cheltenham Trust (in providing food parcels) and Cheltenham Borough Homes (in collecting prescriptions). He thanked all those involved and also to the Executive Leadership Team for their leadership. 96% of council staff were now home working with thanks to Publica ICT. Those members of staff who had been redeployed to other jobs had done so seamlessly.
In looking to the future the Leader highlighted the need to try and avoid a 2nd wave and highlighted the importance of test and trace. As lockdown eased a local plan would be required in accordance with national guidance. Everyone had a role to play and the draft recovery strategy would be discussed at Cabinet. Key to the recovery was the continuation of key projects such as investment in affordable housing and development at West Cheltenham.
The Deputy Leader seconded the motion and stated that the pandemic had touched all of our lives. The loss of life had been devastating and he offered his thoughts to all who have suffered. He noted that the economy of the town was on pause with consequences for all businesses and highlighted that the council was not immune from the financial impact. He welcomed the support to the most vulnerable in the town. There was going to be a new normal and emphasised the need for the town to work collectively to recover.
Members expressed their sympathy with those who had lost loved ones during this crisis and to people who have had the disease.
The significant work undertaken over recent weeks within communities was recognised and the role some Councillors had played in visiting people that the Help Hub couldn’t reach and also in identifying businesses which may not have been contacted regarding any available assistance.
Members wished to put on record their thanks to council officers, many of whom had been redeployed to other duties. There was particular recognition of the outstanding work undertaken in assisting local businesses and the work undertaken by the community help hub. Members also thanked partner organisations, such as Ubico,CBH and the Cheltenham Trust.
It was acknowledged that risks associated with a return to the normal night time economy could be mitigated via Purple Flag work to ensure those employed in that sector were kept safe. It was recognised that more than ever the hospitality sector needed our support.
It was recognised that Cheltenham has the people, skills, willingness and strong sustainable communities to recover and Cheltenham Borough Council needs to play a part in a collective response. There would need to be a council wide review of expenditure and some hard choices would have to be made.
Thanks were given to the Local Resilience Forum and Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group.
It was recognised that the current situation had brought out the best in people and communities. The care shown within the community has shown something positive at a time of adversity.
It was also acknowledged that young people are particularly finding it hard to get jobs and there is a skills shortage which needed to be addressed.
It was noted that young people not at school may have been forgotten during this time and there was recognition for those working from home and home schooling. It was important that through the No Child Left Behind initiative no child goes hungry over the holidays.
A Member requested that the closure of Cheltenham A&E was looked at by Overview and Scrutiny.
A Member highlighted that now, more than ever, was the time for cycling and walking to be encouraged. Recommendations have been submitted to Gloucestershire County Council regarding road closures for cyclists and Cheltenham could be a trailblazer for this. The benefits of exercise on mental health were also highlighted.
The Leader concluded the debate by confirming that Cabinet would consider the contributions made today. He emphasised that ongoing practical support was needed from Government.
1. the extraordinary collective and sustained effort of organisations, communities and individuals across Cheltenham to respond to Covid-19 be recognised.
2. all Council staff be thanked for their flexibility and dedication in responding to the crisis.
3. the Covid-19 Recovery Strategy approved by Cabinet for consultation on 14th May 2020 be welcomed
4. It be noted that the issues raised in debate of this motion will be considered as part of the consultation before a revised Strategy is submitted for approval by Cabinet in July.
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