Cannock Chase Council, in common with other public organisations, has been making arrangements to ensure as many of its services as possible can continue to be delivered during the current coronavirus situation, especially for the District’s vulnerable residents.
It is making plans with the backdrop that it has had to send about 25 per cent of its workforce home whose health is considered to be at high risk according to the NHS guidelines. The majority of these are continuing to work from home.
Staff are being asked to work from home where they are able. This includes staff who are currently self-isolating.
The priority is for the Council to maintain its frontline services and services provided by its contracted suppliers where possible. Senior managers are meeting daily to discuss the delivery of services and where changes or reductions will be necessary.
Unfortunately, this means that several immediate and necessary changes are being made affecting the Council’s Receptions, Council meetings, this May’s Council elections, leisure services and the cancellation of events organised by the Council.
In view of the concerns residents may have about their finances, the Council would like to stress that it will work sympathetically with residents who lose their job or cannot pay their rent as a result of the current situation, and it can guide residents through the processes if they have not made a claim previously. Furthermore, eviction proceedings will be suspended in the event rent cannot be paid. Government support has also been announced today in terms of financial support for employees.
Specific help and advice is available at www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk/residents/benefits on claiming housing benefit and council tax reductions, claiming Universal Credit and other DWP benefits, getting help with budgeting and debt management. There is also information if you are having difficulty paying your Council Tax and difficulty paying your rent.
For businesses, several packages of measures have been announced by the Government in order to help them deal with the impact of the crisis. Full details are not yet available to the Council but are emerging daily. The Council will do everything that it can to get the reliefs and grants paid to businesses as soon as possible and without the need for an application, wherever it can.
These measures include:
• 1 year Business Rates holiday for retail and leisure businesses – we are reviewing our records and will be contacting businesses in the next few days.
• Small Business Support Grant of £10,000 for those receiving small business rate relief or rural rate relief – we will contact businesses directly with advice on how to access the grant, as soon as Government has confirmed the details.
• Retail and Leisure Business Grants of £10,000 in respect of retail or leisure properties with a rateable value of £15,000 or less. £25,000 to be paid to properties with rateable values between £15,000 and £51,000. The Council will contact those eligible as soon as it can.
Services from the Council that will be changing are as follows:
Receptions to close from Monday 23 March – and how to contact us
Unfortunately a consequence of the loss of 25 per cent of our staff is that we have to close our reception services at the Civic Offices in Cannock and the area office located in Rugeley Market. You can still contact us and access our services via our website www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can phone us on (01543) 462621. Where it is essential for face-to-face contact with customers an appointment will be made.
Staff are available to help the most vulnerable with their housing queries and needs. The Housing Reception at the Civic Offices will be operating limited opening hours for those people who are homeless and will only be open from 10am to 11am and 3.30pm to 4.30pm on Mondays to Fridays. During the current time, and in line with Government guidance, any planned tenancy evictions will be suspended.
May’s elections postponed
The District Council elections where 13 seats were due to be contested on 7 May have been postponed by the Returning Officer following advice from Government. These will be re-arranged within the next 12 months along with the election for the Police and Crime Commissioner that was also due to be held in May. Those councilors due to stand for election in May will now serve a further year.
Changes to Council meetings
All non-essential Member Committees such as Scrutiny Committees, Audit and Governance, Shadow Cabinet etc. will not proceed for the foreseeable future. It is intended that both Planning Control Committee and Licensing Committee will continue to meet subject to their being business to transact and that these meetings are quorate. The Planning Control Committee scheduled for 25 March is planned to proceed. Decisions will be taken on an ‘as and when’ basis and in consultation with the political Group Leaders as to whether Cabinet and Council will meet. This will be determined by the criticality of the business to be transacted and quoracy.
Cancellation of events and non-essential meetings
With reluctance the Council has decided to cancel events it was organising for the next few months, which includes planned VE Day celebrations due to take place on 8 May in Hednesford Park and involving community organisations. Council staff have also been advised to cancel all non-essential meetings and to avoid attending any external meetings unless these are necessary.
Leisure centres closing today (Friday 20 March)
The Prince of Wales Theatre in Cannock, managed by the Council’s leisure partner Inspiring Healthy Lifestyles (ihl) has already cancelled its current programme of shows and events until 30 April, in line with the request from Government earlier this week. Following the Government announcement today, the Chase Leisure Centre in Cannock, Rugeley Leisure Centre and 5s Pavilion and Sports Ground in Hednesford will also close from this evening (Friday). The Museum of Cannock Chase is also closed from this evening. The golf course at Cannock remains open for members to use. Bookings for the golf course will need to be made online.
Tony McGovern, Managing Director of Cannock Chase Council said: “In this fast moving national emergency, the staff and councilors at Cannock Chase Council will do all they can to help and guide our residents and businesses through this challenging period.
“The Council has a key role to play with its partners across Staffordshire to plan for the continuation of key services, and we are working with Government to respond to the national support that is being rolled out. Staff will have a key role to play in delivering advice and support, and ensuring that residents and businesses know what is being provided.
“We are updating our website and social media with information as it is provided. We are also seeing some great initiatives in the community, some of which involve our councillors.
“This is a difficult time for us all and we want to thank residents and businesses for their patience and understanding when trying to contact us or work with us. Collectively, we will get through this challenge.”
Information is being updated regularly so residents and businesses should keep an eye on the Council’s website www.cannockchasedc.gov.uk and in particular the features on Coronavirus and Beware of Coronavirus Scams, which unfortunately are happening, and our social media channels via Twitter @cannockchasedc and Facebook `search Cannock Chase Life`.