The Chairman reported that it had now been eight months since the country entered the first lockdown in response to the growing threat of coronavirus, and in those eight months there had been some extraordinary efforts to support the most vulnerable and keep running the council services that residents relied on.
The current lockdown had again shown that across the district individuals and groups were willing to step up to support their neighbours and those in their communities that required help and support in the coming weeks. More than 1,200 volunteers had stepped up as part of the wonderful ‘Care for our Community’ to support those in need of assistance in the district, alongside the very active voluntary and community sector.
The Council had launched its Community Connectors scheme in October, working along trusted and recognised community leaders to help communicate the key Public Health England safety messages to help people get clear information on how to stay safe, reduce the risk of getting and spreading the infection, and what additional support there might be to help do this.
Since April, the Housing team had provided accommodation for over 60 rough sleepers that would otherwise have faced Covid-19 without a place to live, and the team were now working to find ‘move on’ accommodation for when the urgent support the council had been able to find, came to an end.
The Council had successfully secured £468k funding from Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s (MHCLG) Next Steps Accommodation Fund to support the impact of Covid-19, helping rough sleepers into ‘move on’ accommodation. The Council’s HERO team had supported 322 people who had been referred to them with concerns about their housing or finances as a direct result of Covid-19.
The Council had been given access to an allocated fund of £107,106 from the European Regional Development Fund supporting measures to establish a safe trading environment for businesses and customers in high streets. The focus on recovery and supporting the high street had seen the development of a town centre high streets communications campaign with the town councils, which was due to launch in the Christmas lead up.
The Council had allocated Government’s Small Business Rate Relief and Business Grants totalling £23.32m, supporting 1,904 local businesses. The Discretionary Grant Scheme had awarded £1.2m to businesses.
The Chairman further advised that in the absence of any face-to-face social meetings, he and the Vice Chairman had continued to contact and virtually meet with local community and charity groups to see how they were adapting to the situation, and as ever they were quite inspiring.
Prior to the current lockdown, he and the Vice Chairman had attended some outdoor events in person marking Silver Sunday, including several Every Step Counts and the Memorial Care Garden at Sevenoaks allotments as well as Flag raising ceremonies at the council offices and the Memorial Service on the Vine. He added that whilst he was at West Kingsdown attending their ‘Every Step Counts’, he had taken the opportunity to re-visit the much-overworked Community Cupboard to thank them for their sterling work in supporting the wider community, which had been much appreciated.
The Chairman reported that staff and Members had been fundraising for ‘Children in Need’ and had raised an amazing total of £864.80.
Finally he asked Members to note that the Staff Christmas Service would be taking place via Zoom on Wednesday 9 December at 11am, and that further details would follow in due course.