18 March 2020
This statement is an update on the position of Woking Borough Council in respect of our activities in light of the Coronavirus and the emerging national picture.
Underlying what we do is the safety and well-being of the community and the safety and well-being of our staff in meeting the needs of local people. Whilst we aspire to ‘business as usual’ the reality is that it cannot be.
The Government continues to publish advice on what individuals should do to protect themselves during the COVID 19 pandemic. It is important that individuals follow this advice and take necessary steps to protect themselves, their families and others.
There are a number of actions that we, and partner organisations, have taken in respect of service operations to minimise the risk to staff and the public in light of the latest government advice.
- The Civic Offices remains open to members of the public. Visitors are asked to use the hand sanitiser provided when entering the building and remain at a safe distance from staff.
- Our Centres for the Community (Moorcroft, Parkview, St Mary’s and The Vyne) are closed to the public. Instead, these will be used as hubs to coordinate support to vulnerable residents.
- Brockhill remains open for residents. Day centre services have closed.
- HG Wells Conference and Events Centre has closed and will not reopen due to the scheduled closure in July.
- Pre-planning application meetings are cancelled, but written advice will still be provided by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Supporting vulnerable people
- Those who would have used our Centres for meals or support will be provided with alternative support including providing meals through our Meals on Wheels service, social contact through regular phone calls, visits and essential shopping through our home support services.
- We are working with our existing network of community support, including Woking Community Transport, to reach more people and will continue to extend this network.
- Contact is being made with food banks to ensure that they have adequate supplies and if necessary the ability to deliver food to clients.
- Anyone wishing to volunteer their time to support vulnerable people within their community are asked to register their interest by visiting the Volunteer Plus website (https://volunteerplus.org.uk/opportunity/woking/community-support-volunteer-covid-19-489)
- There is also a wider national discussion as to what role local Councils need to take going forward. This will inevitably change what we are asked to do.
- The Council and Thameswey will work positively with tenants in financial difficulties to avoid the risk of homelessness.
- We are supporting York Road Project to explore ways of securing safe places for rough sleepers.
- We are also exploring further opportunities to increase our capacity to help homeless people, including renting property that has been available as corporate lets.
- The Borough and Police and Crime Commissioner Elections scheduled for 7 May 2020 are cancelled and will not be held until 6 May 2021.
- This year’s Celebrate Woking programme of events and activities has been cancelled.
- This means that the key activities which use Council resources or facilities will not be programmed or permitted during 2020. The respective organisations are being advised.
- The only event that remains scheduled is Remembrance Sunday on 8 November 2020.
- Woking Hospice remain open for inpatients. Day centre services have closed.
- The New Victoria Theatre and Rhoda McGaw Theatre have closed.
Employee working arrangements
- Wherever possible, appropriate adjustments are being made to enable staff to work from home and continue to deliver services for residents.
- Non-essential staff are being redeployed to ensure front-line services can remain open to the public.
- Staff are encouraged to find alternative arrangements for external meetings and consider if face-to-face meetings are necessary.
Financial support for business
- The Government has announced Business Rates support for retail and some other business sectors. We are awaiting the detail of the relief.
- In the meantime businesses will not be chased for Business Rate payments.
- We will review across our corporate estate where tenants may need a flexible approach from us about delaying rent payments. Where possible we will delay the obligation to pay if that enables a business to survive and retain employees.
- Formal decision-making meetings of the Council will continue in person for the foreseeable future. This includes Full Council, Executive, Planning and Overview & Scrutiny.
- All working and task group meetings have been cancelled.
- We actively encourage members of the public to observe our meetings using our webcast services rather than attend in person.
- Officer attendance at formal meetings will also be reduced to the minimum number necessary to support the meeting.
Further updates will be posted on the Council’s website as and when necessary. In the meantime, please visit www.nhs.uk/conronavirus for the latest medical advice.