Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 20 March 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

20 March 2020


Dear friends and colleagues, 

As we respond to the pandemic facing our country we are doing a great deal to support our communities and respond to the challenges facing our councils.

The LGA is busy working on your behalf to collate priorities, provide guidance and raising issues with senior Ministers. We are also keeping the website up to date with relevant coronavirus updates, I hope you find this and our updates a useful resource.

The Secretary of State is in listening mode, and so far has agreed to almost all our requests for money and for changes in the legislation to help us do the best job possible at this time of crisis. We’re expecting the emergency Coronavirus Bill to pass next week to enable remote voting, delay our Annual meetings, return of accounts and audit.

In my area, a number of our meetings are now online, staff are down to an organised minimum in the offices, with phones on divert. Bin teams are on staggered times as well.

Locally, members are very busy on the front line, setting up self-help groups of residents and making sure our local resilience forums have the contacts for the volunteer co-ordinations.

Neighbourly help 

It is brilliant how our communities are pulling together at this worrying time for us all. The shut-down is in daily stages, making for a very fast-moving situation.

You can get the latest Government updates on your phone or on the web and many members are sharing information on social media, from daily updates to information on new volunteer groups.

The official links to have to hand to share with others are:

Latest information on the situation in the UK and our response

NHS information about the illness and symptoms

The LGA has produced Covid-19 guidance for councillors, I hope you find this useful.

Locally, councillors are at the heart of setting up and supporting local voluntary groups in every village,or section of the town. Some guidelines are below as an example you might like to follow:

  • The main way voluntary groups can help is to keep in touch with people in self-isolation and deliver shopping and medicines to the door. 
  • A central phone number will help people access support.
  • A co-ordinator on duty can access the trusted volunteers’ rota on the “What's App group” for volunteers and put the volunteer in touch with the task.
  • We have arrangements for direct payment with local shops.
  • Surgeries may need help with getting medicines out, so we will help with that too.
  • I am also doing a “contact me” note to go up in each village and a newsletter with the useful local contacts.

Links with other organisations: Public Health comes under the County Council and all the public services are represented on the Resilience Forums. In my area they are setting up a “hub” which can connect with our local groups. The Hub has the contact details of people identified by the GPs as vulnerable and without help. Our support groups will include anyone who lives in the area and asks for help. The churches are doing a daily phone call from trained volunteers, if requested.

Schools are closing today, except for vulnerable children and children of essential and health workers. Imagine how the children will love that while other children are skipping in the park! With many grandparents not able to do childcare, all activity, heritage and leisure centres closed and no exams looming, it could be quite hard for parents.

What else to do? We can encourage our clubs to have virtual meetings or via other means, e.g book clubs via What's App, art groups via Skype, wildlife activity sheets for children shared on facebook or yoga classes to follow on YouTube. For anyone who is fit enough and off work, parishes have allotment space for growing vegetables. There’s a lot of activity online but some of our members may need support to access it.

If you would like an example action plan for our self-help groups please contact the office.

I hope you are well. Thank you for taking a lead in supporting your local communities as much as you can in this time of crisis. 

Kind regards,

Councillor Marianne Overton MBE signature
Councillor Marianne Overton MBE

Councillor Marianne Overton MBE
Leader of the Independent Group
Vice Chair of the Local Government Association