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Torridge District Council response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Escalation

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Following recent government and NHS announcements concerning the spread of Coronavirus the government has asked everybody in the UK to stop non-essential contact with other people and avoid all unnecessary travel. This has been referred to as "social distancing". As a result of this advice the Council have taken the decision to cancel all public committee and other meetings until at least the end of March. The Council will continue to review government advice on a weekly basis and update its approach as appropriate. Where possible alternative methods of exchanging information such as video conferencing will be put in place so that the business of making decisions can continue.

The Council are also asking members of the public to think about how they interact with the Council in the short term. Many services can be accessed online or requests made by telephone. The Council are advising people that its customer reception points will be closed for all but emergency or essential contact. We are therefore asking people not to visit Council Offices unless it is absolutely necessary and would urge people to speak to officers first before setting off with the intention to visit.

Officers and Members have also held meetings to discuss service provision during the likely ongoing escalation of the crisis. The emphasis has been on being able to continue to provide the most important front line services to the many vulnerable people across the district as well as other important services such as refuse collection, which nearly everyone uses. Human resource teams have also been trying to understand going forward the impact that potential school closures might have on staff that have parenting duties or other staff who might be more vulnerable due to their own health or the health of relatives or dependant partners.

While services are currently operating at near normal capacity as more officers may themselves succumb to the virus, or be responsible for looking after others at home, some Council response times may be extended. The Council will do its best to manage resources in key services by redeploying staff or assessing temporary workforce arrangements but would ask the public for their understanding in what continues to be a fast evolving situation. There may also be a need to prioritise some services over others but we will endeavour to keep all services running as smoothly as possible.  

The Council will continue to post updates and important messages on its website, Facebook, Twitter @torridgedc and other social media channels. Torridge will also start posting general and service updates on a dedicated "Corona virus (COVID-19) advice in Torridge" webpage accessible from the landing page on the Councils website. The page will also host links to other main sources of information such as the NHS and Central Government.

Councillor Ken James - Leader of Torridge District Council said:

"The message remains that people should in the first instance follow all the guidance being given by the NHS and Central Government and supplement this with any local service updates issued by the Council. I know that all of our officers will do their best to ensure that the upheaval likely to be caused by the spread of Covid-19 will be minimised as far as possible and we will be monitoring and adjusting as times goes on. Our aim is to continue to serve our residents and businesses to the best of our abilities as the situation allows."

Steve Hearse - Strategic Manager Resources said:

"The public will be able to help us to reduce the spread of the virus and free up officer time by interacting with the Council online or by telephone wherever this is possible. During the current crisis we would ask that they only visit offices where this is absolutely necessary and agreed in advance by telephone. If a request is not urgent then we would also appreciate people deferring a request until a time when the current peak level of crisis has subsided." 

17 March 2020