Agenda item

DISCUSSION WITH THE LEADER

Minutes:

[During this item, at 8pm, the Members who had joined the call paused to join with the “#ClapforOurCarers” movement, in recognition of all staff working across the NHS and in other Key Worker positions.]

 

The Leader of the Council, Councillor Colin Smith, joined the call to respond to questions from the Committee.  Councillor Smith gave a brief introduction highlighting that as a result of COVID-19 the nation was experiencing unprecedented and rapid changes and challenges and it was clear that the pandemic in the United kingdom had not yet reached its peak.

 

Where Members had coordinated and submitted questions on behalf of residents, these had been responded to as quickly as possible and in as much detail as possible.  Bromley was in a good position compared to some other local authorities.  Efforts were being made to update the website as often as possible.

 

Options for keeping Members of the Council updated on developments were discussed.  Members of the Committee were conscious that there should not be an additional burden on already stretched staff.  Consequently, Councillor Cooke proposed that the Democratic Services Manager be nominated as the single point of contact for Councillors.  The response to any questions submitted by Councillors could then be co-ordinated and all councillors would be copied in when the reply was sent.  All questions from councillors and the answers provided would be uploaded onto the Councillors Team Site (on SharePoint) for ease of reference.  The proposal was seconded by Councillor Fawthrop and unanimously agreed by the Members taking part in the briefing.

 

In relation to those residents that had put themselves forward as volunteers, the Council had received offers of help from in excess of 3000 people.  The COVID-19 Officer Response Team were currently categorising these volunteers in terms of those who had valid DBS checks, those with driving licenses etc.  Everything was being put in place to drive this initiative forward and any volunteers would be contacted within the next few days.

 

Members discussed the growing issue of bonfires and associated anti-social behaviour.  There were fewer staff within waste services and consequently there had been a reduction in the regularity of garden waste collections.  Colleagues within Environmental Health Services were aware of the reported issues and the situation was being monitored.

 

The Leader recognised that as a result of the enforced changes to waste collections there would be a reduction in levels of recycling however service recovery plans were being put in place.

 

Members discussed the impact of COVID-19 in relation to loss of revenue and the Leader provided assurances that the situation was being closely monitored by Officers and that the Council contingency reserves planning would stand us in good stead financially,

were the situation to deteriorate markedly.

 

In relation to staff affected by the closure of council premises, the Leader reported that most of the Council’s staff were currently working from home via remote connection.  It was noted that at the end of the current COVID-19 emergency there would need to be a detailed review of the revised working practices and an analysis of staff productivity.  It was possible that the lessons learned from the rapid and unprecedented response to COVID-19 could inform the future shape and delivery of Council services.

 

The Portfolio Holder for Resources, Commissioning and Contracts Management referred the changes in working practices that has been implemented during the course of the week as a “game changer”.  In the region of 1200 staff a day were accessing the system remotely and in addition many staff had put themselves forward to fill gaps in front line services resulting from staff sickness and staff being required to self-isolate.  Staff were now working very differently and the Council’s partnership with BT had been crucial.

 

The Leader emphasised that the effort of all staff across the entire Council over the past few weeks had been phenomenal.  The work being done by staff within Adults Services, Children’s Services and Environment was particularly noted.  The Leader highlighted that the past few weeks had proved beyond doubt that the Council’s greatest asset was its staff.

 

The Chairman and all other Members joined the Leader and the Portfolio Holder for Resources, Commissioning and Contracts Management in expressing their thanks and appreciation to all staff across the Council for their response to the COVID-19 emergency.

 

PROPOSED That the Democratic Services Manager be nominated as the single point of contact for Councillors.  The response to any questions submitted by Councillors could then be co-ordinated and all councillors would be copied in when the reply was sent.  All questions from councillors and the answers provided would be uploaded onto the Councillors Team Site (on SharePoint) for ease of reference.

 

 

Original Text: