Council leader’s praise for communities over response to coronavirus

East Riding Council’s leader has praised the local authority and community’s response to coronavirus while its chief executive has warned the recovery could take months.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 12:25 pm
Cllr Richard Burton said the council had been quick to respond to the outbreak in its early stages.

Cllr Richard Burton said the council had been quick to respond to the outbreak in its early stages despite the East Riding still recovering from floods earlier this year.

The leader added council staff and members had adapted in the face of what looked like a potential “train crash”.

Cllr Burton and East Riding Chief Executive Caroline Lacey, in charge of full time staff running the council, were taking questions from councillors on the Overview and Management Scrutiny Committee.

Ms Lacey said it would likely take months for council services to get back to pre-coronavirus levels.

The chief executive added the council currently faces a £13m gap in its finances due to mounting costs from the pandemic and lost income.

Cllr Burton said the authority’s earlier experience of responding to the floods stood it in good stead for handling the pandemic.

He said: “We all had to deal with this in our own way. At first it was like watching a train crash without knowing what the full scale would be.

“Like other authorities early on we delegated powers to officers. But unlike some neighbouring councils we made sure democracy was still locked in.

“When the lockdown first came in advice from government was changing by the hour and minute.

“We began from a standing start, but staff were agile and quickly to adapt, and councillors helped with community efforts in their wards.”

Ms Lacey said the council had worked to support residents and communities by keeping essential services running.

Ms Lacey said: “We’ve provided PPE for care homes and we had to set up our community support hub in a matter of hours to support volunteer groups and vulnerable residents.

“A majority priority for us was keeping schools open for vulnerable children and for those of key workers.

“We wanted to make sure we could see the most vulnerable children at least once every couple of weeks.

“While it took a few days to stand services down it’s going to take months to recover. Leisure and culture services particularly so.

“One thing we have seen is much lower absence rates among street scene staff for example.

“We think that’s down to all the support and encouragement they’ve received from their communities.”

Ms Lacey added the council’s current £13m shortfall was caused by additional costs of around £11m and lost income of about £20m.

The government has so far given the council £18m in emergency support funding.

Ms Lacey said the council was working to find savings in other areas to make up for the shortfall and that it would prepare a new budget to reflect it.