Councillor Teresa O’Neill OBE, Leader of the London Borough of Bexley, has the latest information on how the Council is ensuring those most in need are getting the help they need.
It’s been a hard few days, as we all play our part to stop the spread of this terrible virus which has killed so many already.
By following the rules put in place by the Government we can all help slow the spread, keep the pressure of our health service and the more we follow the rules the quicker it will be over.
These measures are affecting all of us and all sorts of services – lots of shops are closed, providers of care to the vulnerable and other service providers are suffering staff shortages, our schools are shut. We all want to check on our families and ensure they are okay, while observing the rules.
The measures in place to tackle it are having a major impact on council services, on all types of services really, here in Bexley.
So what are we doing as a Council?
Every day we have conversations by phone (or video conferencing) to discuss the current situation, what issues we have and how they might be resolved.
All Leaders of London Councils and the Mayor of London’s office have regular conference calls to see who needs help or can offer help to another Borough – the same applies to Chief Executives – and we speak regularly to the police and other emergency services.
As ever our staff have been amazing, implementing huge changes to the way they work, and focusing on ensuring services for those most in need of help in the Borough get the support they need.
They are working long hours to ensure all the things we need to do are done quickly and efficiently, and I pay tribute to them all for this as they really are going the extra mile.
A couple of years ago an independent report said Bexley Council’s staff were deeply committed to the Borough and to everyone the Council serves. The way they have gone about the tasks over the last few days proves that to be even more true than when the report was written.
As Councillors we are out and about in our communities as best we can to check on those in need or to or provide information.
My Cabinet colleagues are working around the clock with their relevant Council teams to implement the changes needed, talking or meeting online several times a day.
In the first couple of days of this crisis we set up a volunteers hub to co-ordinate help – and 600 people signed up to help straight away.
Not that this is a surprise – Bexley’s residents have always been people who look out for others, offer help to those in need and support our community. The pride of our community in carers, the NHS and everyone helping out at this time could not have been clearer on Thursday evening when across the Borough we all went out into our roads for a huge round of applause.
We were one of the first Borough’s in London to waive parking charges for key workers and carers, and we’ve approved 1200 (and rising) applications so far.
We worked quickly to ensure elderly or vulnerable adults who were in hospital could be discharged so they could return to their homes to be cared for there and free up hospital beds.
One of the challenges for Councils is securing enough personal protection equipment for those doing the caring.
The team that protect vulnerable and at risk children are working as usual, albeit it from home, to ensure those who sadly need to be placed elsewhere – often at a moment’s notice – are kept safe.
A huge amount of work is being done to help and protect victims of domestic violence, who are potentially at more risk now we’re confined to our homes than ever before and we’re working flat out to find temporary accommodation for anyone who needs it.
We created a page on the Council website to keep residents updated with the impact on council services.
We’re aiming to keep our parks open for people to get some fresh air and exercise – and it’s great that everyone is following the rules on social distancing and staying 2 metres or more apart from others – all while still being able to say a cheery hello to each other.
While 30% of the parks team are unable to work because of the measures in place, those that are working are doing a huge amount to keep our parks and open spaces in good condition for when we can all start using them again.
Clearly with the scale of what we’re facing, and the measures in place affectIng Council staff, Councillors and service providers as much as everyone else, we can’t provide the usual range of services we all take for granted, and we need to focus on helping those most in need.
Like all Councils across the country, our libraries are not able to open, our leisure centres are shut and our fantastic playgrounds have had to be closed.
Our waste and recycling collections have been amended to ensure we can provide a consistent service.
40% of the collection crews have been absent because of self-isolation and those working must keep a 2 metre distance from their colleagues.
The after effects of the two day strike which ran from 6am on Wednesday 18th to 6am on Friday 20th March had a major impact but almost all of those missed collections are now complete.
Finally, thank you to you.
This is an extraordinary time we are living through. We are all impacted in one way or the other, but together we will come out the other side a stronger community and a stronger Bexley. Please stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
And above all else, be kind.