Published: Monday, 30th March 2020
For the duration of the COVID-19 outbreak Cllr Stuart Dark has been appointed as Cabinet Member for Emergency Planning.
Cllr Brian Long, Leader of the council, said: "Cllr Dark has a strong background in civil emergency response work, having worked for the police service for a number of years and having been involved in the response to the Tsunami, London bombings and other major incidents. He was also operational lead for police community reassurance in London.
"He's the right person to be liaising with borough, town and parish councils to ensure they have the information they need about the borough council's response to the COVID-19 outbreak and to feedback information to cabinet so that we can ensure our staff are supported to deliver the services that are needed."
Speaking about his appointment, Cllr Dark said: "I know as a district and county councillor that people turn to their councillors for answers in times of uncertainty. I want to ensure that my district and parish colleagues know they can contact me and I will make sure they have the information they need to reassure their residents. The council is doing a good job getting messages into the media and on social media. However, some people are isolated and don't have access to these channels, so I want to ensure that representatives at a really local level are able to reassure people and provide advice.
"This is a very worrying time for everyone, but it can be especially frightening for vulnerable and isolated people who maybe don't have friends or family to turn to. By ensuring that there is a network of people on the ground with up-to-date information hopefully we can reassure people and reduce their anxiety.
"Our country, county and borough are all working together to enhance our existing emergency plans to deal with this unprecedented situation. My thanks go our Chief Executive, officers and partners who have been involved in our response to date. They along with our amazing NHS, emergency services, shop workers and those stepping up in our communities to support others and the many, many people observing the guidance to protect others are to be praised.
Our own borough council staff have shown great flexibility and innovation, for which I am both humbled and grateful. They are assisting with the development of community hubs to support vulnerable and isolated residents. All households will be receiving letters over the next few days detailing how they can access help or how they can provide support to these hubs.
"I know we have a team of people working on the business rates and hardship relief announced by the government. I want to reassure businesses, that as long as you are registered we know who you are and will be issuing revised business rates bills - you don't need to do anything.
"We are still seeking drivers to assist with waste collections, and would ask people with brown bins not to put their waste in their black bin as this seriously impacts on our ability to continue with the regular service. We will extend renewals so that anyone affected by the suspended service doesn't lose out. On a similar point, while the household waste recycling centres are closed and the brown bins service is suspended, we urge people not to fly-tip or to start burning waste and creating a nuisance - this will divert valuable resources away from our critical response to isolated and vulnerable residents.
Our public open spaces and allotments are available for those taking their daily exercise, but we are putting up signs to remind people not to gather with anyone that doesn't live with them, to keep their distance, to practice good hygiene and to go home if they feel unwell. It is vital that we follow the Government advice to Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.
"We are asking people not to ring or come into the office if it can be avoided. This means we can keep the phone lines open for those who are seriously in need, protect you and protect our staff.
"I will be asking my borough and parish council colleagues to help share our messages of reassurance and information on where people can get help."
Our dedicated web page west-norfolk.gov.uk/coronavirus details all service arrangements and provides links to Norfolk County Council and Gov.uk websites.