Covid-19: East Cambs Council offering actions not words

East Cambs Council leader Anna Bailey in a recent YouTube message of re-assurance on how the council is working to...

East Cambs Council leader Anna Bailey in a recent YouTube message of re-assurance on how the council is working to minimise the impacts of Covid-19. - Credit: ECDC

East Cambs Council has paid out nearly £19m across all Covid-19 grant schemes.  

The money has gone to hundreds of individuals and businesses impacted by the pandemic.  

The total includes £9m paid to 901 small businesses during the first lockdown last year. 

Director of operations Jo Brooks offers a 2,500-word summary of the council’s Covid-19 actions in a report to councillors.  

It details the complexities and range of grants that became available, at different times and aimed at different sectors of the community.  

During December, for instance, she says the Government announced a one-off payment of £1,000 to public houses that derive less than half of their income from sales of food.  

There were also instances where businesses had to demonstrate that they were “severely impacted by reductions in footfall or by the wider changes in behaviour of customers” as a result of the restrictions put in place to control the spread of Covid-19 from December 26 to February 15”. 

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Village halls, scout or guide huts and church halls were among later additions to grant aid – and these are still being submitted. Applicants have until March 19 to apply for them. 

Ms Brooks says that since the formation of a Covid-19 recovery group, a successful bid for £330,000 of funding had been made to the countywide outbreak management fund and the winter payments fund.  

“All of the funding supports additional services or resources to help residents,” she says. 

Ms Brooks says regular contact has been made with community groups and parish councils throughout the pandemic to offer support.  

“Many of these groups have formed the community outreach groups or ‘hubs’ that make up the East Cambs Co-ordination Hub,” she says.  

“As part of this ongoing support and communication, a need to provide a small but vital funding pot to communities was recognised.  

“These community groups have been stood up since the pandemic started and many have undertaken tasks which have not just fulfilled the immediate need of shopping trips and dog walking, but also activities (whilst restrictions allowed) to help residents.” 

A community grant scheme, which offers funding of up to £500 per community hub was launched in January.  

“The take up on the grant has been good in the first month,” she says. 

Examples include providing healthy treats for elderly and shielding residents to providing food parcels and vouchers.  

Ms Brooks says a current survey of the over 60s will find out more about how Covid-19 has affected them. 

And the council has recruited a Covid-19 co-ordinator to help in recovery.  

Her report also details Covid-19 compliance training for taxi drivers that has been introduced.  

It includes health and safety training, cashless payment and the use of masks as well as a subsidy for fitting a “quality standard screen” in their cabs.  

"Since going live 212 drivers have completed the training and applied for funding,” she says.  

“The next stage of the scheme is to promote the scheme to residents and to encourage those who require a taxi, to ask for a driver who has been Covid-19 trained and has a screen in place.” 

East Cambs Council has also trained officers to undertake rapid Covid-19 tests. 

Four members of East Cambs Street Scene have undertaken training and will be able to provide refuse collectors with regular rapid tests. 

Tests will be offered to those in hostels and on traveller sites, too, she says.  

"From an officer perspective, they will mainly focus on testing those who cannot work from home and/or undertake visits to public premises, for example, those supporting food parcel deliveries and visits to shared accommodation,” she says.  

The report will be considered by the finance and assets committee. 

At their last meeting an update was requested after some members had expressed concerns about the “premature closure” of the Covid-19 working party. 

However, the committee agreed that “it had been demonstrated that work was being taken forward by the director operations and her officer recovery group”.