Published: Friday, 17th July 2020
With infection rates falling to a low level and lockdown measures continuing to be eased, the borough council is now moving out of its emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The focus is moving on to recovery from the impacts of the virus. Cllr Stuart Dark, who took on the temporary role of Cabinet Member for Emergency Planning/Covid-19 response at the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk at short notice in early April said: “As people start returning to work, children start returning to school and our high street and leisure and social facilities start to reopen, now is a good time to reflect on the last four, unprecedented, months for West Norfolk.
"I’d like to start by recognising the real human cost of Covid-19 and the necessary ‘public health’ measures taken to reduce its impact. I’m acutely aware that behind all of the statistics are local people who have been lost, or who have lost loved ones, or are suffering financial hardship or uncertainty. My thoughts are with them all."
"I’d also like to add my voice to those praising our local NHS staff on the front line. Having seen the extent and danger of this sudden challenge, how they dug in and adapted to overcome it and the results they achieved on our behalf, I’m firmly of the opinion they deserve all the plaudits they get and far more."
"The Borough Council and it’s contracted partners also had to rapidly adapt to Covid-19 and it’s associated measures to ensure key local services continued to be delivered, new priorities were catered for and the council played its full part in the co-ordinated, multi-partner, regional and national response to the crisis."
- Over 7000 residents being contacted by phone. More than 1,900 doorstep welfare checks made.
- 1,173 Lily referrals for support completed. The service, managed by the borough council, is uniquely placed to give support to socially isolated people, tackle loneliness and help wellbeing. Lily was assisted and gave training to officers redeployed to their department during the pandemic.
- More than 200 emergency food parcels have been delivered to residents in addition to the Government scheme.
- All rough sleepers were provided with temporary accommodation.
- Free activity sessions, including food, were provided to key worker children by Alive West Norfolk during April and May. 1025 bookings were made and allowed key worker parents at the QE Hospital, Police and council to keep working through the pandemic.
- Over £38m of grants paid to more than 3,250 local businesses and a further reduction of business rates worth over £21m.
- £10,000 was donated to King’s Lynn Food Bank at the start of lockdown.
- Covid-19 safety patrols, guidance, signage and wash basins put in place along popular coastal areas when lockdown measures were eased. The cliff path in Hunstanton was also widened to help with social distancing.
- As non-essential retail reopened support was given to retailers including signage that could be printed for free and a guidance campaign was launched in the local press and online. Safety measures were put in place for shoppers including signage and a Perspex screen between Clough Lane and Tower Street in King’s Lynn.
- 75,000 green and black bins have been collected every week. Please hold on to your food caddy as we will resume collections once social distancing and safety guidelines are relaxed.
- With outdoor Summer events either cancelled or postponed many activities have been taken online including Virtual VE Day, over 2,500 people engaged with us through social media channels on the day. Alive West Norfolk took their fitness sessions online and other activities to try during lockdown were shared on the borough council and Stories of Lynn websites.
Cllr Dark said: "I have worked closely with the Chief Executive and senior council officers throughout the emergency response and seen first-hand how Council staff and contracted staff have readily changed working practices, roles and priorities and worked exceptionally hard to achieve these outstanding results. With over 80% of the council’s employees being ‘key workers’ I believe the crucial role they have all played on our behalf is abundantly clear and I publicly thank them and the many brilliant volunteers and businesses who have stepped in to help West Norfolk."
"I have discussed with the Leader of the Council that as we move from our emergency response into the recovery phase, now is the right time for me to step back from my temporary cabinet position as places are opening up, Council activity is stabilising and infection rates are low."
Cllr Brian Long, the Leader of the borough council, said: "I introduced Cllr Dark temporarily into Cabinet in April as the extent of the threat from Covid-19 began to be known as I, and cabinet colleagues, felt his prior experience and exposure to managing crisis response both strategically and operationally would be a clear asset to West Norfolk. The tireless work Cllr Dark has put in to advise, enable and support senior officers and act as a conduit between our MPs, other agencies, borough councillors and Parish councils during the emergency and the results achieved have clearly demonstrated that. I thank him publicly here for his great work for West Norfolk at such a difficult time".
"The road to recovery in west Norfolk may take some time as we all adapt to the new normal and Cllr Dark will continue to give his valuable input in to that, but it is right that as we now move out of the ‘emergency’ and into ‘recovery’, that cabinet members and the Chief Executive lead the ‘recovery’ of respective portfolios. I would also like to thank all the community groups, businesses and individual volunteers for the community spirit they have shown in supporting the people of west Norfolk during the emergency phase it has been truly staggering and heartwarming."
James Wild, MP for West Norfolk said: "This has been a very challenging time for the people of West Norfolk and I want to thank Stuart for all he has done to lead the council’s response. There has been a huge effort across the Council and I pay tribute to everyone for all the work they have done to support vulnerable individuals and ensure that businesses got the grants they needed. As we continue on the road to recovery, the Council has a vital role to play and it is crucial that we all remain vigilant and follow the social distancing guidance and rules as we re-open the economy."
The community reassurance messaging platform that Cllr Dark established to inform Councillors and Parish Councils of key developments and resources will remain in place.
Multi-agency plans are in place to cover for the eventuality of a localised increase in infection rates. The Norfolk Outbreak Control Plan can be found here: https://www.norfolk.gov.uk/care-support-and-health/health-and-wellbeing/adults-health/coronavirus