March 2020

March 2020 Residents Newsletter - COVID-19

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Coronavirus (Covid-19) update for residents  

In a message to East Devon residents, Mark Williams, the Chief Executive of East Devon District Council and Councillor Ben Ingham, the Leader of the council, outline the need to work together in order to meet the many demands created by the Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak:

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“We are currently faced with one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime with a rapidly changing situation that poses fresh problems at every turn. To overcome these problems every one of us must play our part in helping beat the Coronavirus pandemic.

“We will need to be resilient, resourceful and courageous to make it through the difficult months ahead. We need to work together, to help each other wherever possible and, above all, to ‘keep calm and carry on’.

“Please be reassured that the council’s commitment to you remains steadfast and we will continue to provide critical services using our very best endeavours. To that end I am proud to say that every single member of staff is playing their part and working tirelessly to ensure that, despite multiple challenges, important services are still being delivered to the best of our ability.

“There will undoubtedly be service areas that may have to be discontinued, so I would ask for your patience and understanding as we focus our resources in the areas where they are needed most.

“We are committed to doing whatever is needed to help people directly and to support our communities to find ways to respond quickly.

“We will continue to review and adapt as necessary, and importantly, we will continue to provide up-to-date information about our services and the latest advice via our own communication channels and through the media.

Thank you – keep safe and stay well – Together #WeAreDevon

Mark Williams, Chief Executive, East Devon District Council

Councillor Ben Ingham, Leader, East Devon District Council

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Health advice

Government strategy is changing quickly in response to the increasing number of outbreaks of Coronavirus, but it is still clear that the most important thing individuals can do to protect themselves remains washing their hands more often, for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water. Make sure you cough or sneeze into a tissue, put it in a bin and wash your hands.

To slow the spread of infection, the latest Government guidance is to stay at home for seven days if you have either:

• A high temperature
• A new continuous cough
• If you live with other people, they should stay at home for 14 days from the day the first person got symptoms.

This will help to protect others in your community while you are infectious.

• Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.
• You do not need to contact NHS 111 to tell them you’re staying at home.
• Testing for coronavirus is not needed if you’re staying at home.

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Waste and recycling

If your household is affected by the Coronavirus, any waste materials that you come in contact with need to be handled carefully before they are collected to help prevent further spread of the virus.

Please can you ensure you follow these guidelines:

  • All contaminated items you produce, including tissues, cleaning cloths and wipes and masks, need to be put into a plastic bag. Tie the top of the bag to prevent any material escaping.
  • Put the bag inside another bin liner and tie the top of the bag.
  • Keep the bagged waste for a period of 72 hours in a place that cannot be accessed by other people or pets.
  • Put the bag in your wheeled waste bin (or gull sack if you use one) for safe collection by our crew. The bagged waste must be contained in your wheeled bin and the bin put out in your normal collection point. Do not put the bag on the kerb-side where people could have contact with it.
  • If you have an assisted collection, bag the waste as described above, and put it out in your usual assisted collection point in your wheeled bin or gull sack.

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School closures

After schools shut their gates this afternoon (Friday 20 March 2020), they will remain closed until further notice except for children of key workers and vulnerable children, as part of the country’s ongoing response to coronavirus. Examples of these workers include NHS staff, police and supermarket delivery drivers who need to be able to go to work to support the country’s fight to tackle coronavirus. Vulnerable children include those who have a social worker and those with Education, Health and Care Plans – a legal document that describes a child’s special educational needs and the support they require.

Further information:


Closure of East Devon’s offices and amenities

In line with advice to help reduce the spread of the virus, our offices at Exmouth and Honiton are currently closed to the public. We want to reassure our residents and businesses that while our offices at Exmouth and Honiton are currently closed to the public to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are still open and you can call us on our main number - 01404 515616 – and talk to officers as well as arrange face to face appointments. However, many of our services are available on the East Devon website

Any customers who are either homeless or threatened with homelessness and require advice or assistance from the Housing Options team can contact the team on 01395 571660. A member of the team will be available to speak with you and try to help you to resolve your situation. In emergency cases an appointment can be made to speak with a Housing Officer over the phone.

StreetScene depots and services
Our StreetScene depots at Manstone and Camperdown remain operational although closed to the public. StreetScene teams are continuing with core operational services, although over the coming days it may be necessary to cease some service provision such as grass cutting and public toilets. We will post messages relating to this on our website and social media when we have to take these steps.

Housing Area Offices and community centres
Similarly our five Housing Area Offices are open for our Mobile Support staff, many of whom are maintaining contact with older council tenants by telephone, particularly those tenants who should be social-distancing because of their age or medical conditions. We have closed our 14 Housing community centres largely because they are primarily used by our older tenants and the risks the virus poses to this age group.

Home Safeguard
We have limited access to our Home Safeguard call centre, in an attempt to limit the potential for infection spread, only allowing the relevant manager and the Operators access as this provides a vital lifeline to many older and vulnerable customers who need the comfort of knowing we are at the end of the phone in an emergency situation. Considerable effort has gone into ensuring that the Home Safeguard business continuity plan maintains our essential 24/7 shift cover.


Nature Reserves remain open

We have not closed our Nature Reserves and open spaces, as these provide much needed and relatively safe outdoor spaces that contribute towards our health and wellbeing.
Nature is good for our health and wellbeing, and getting outdoors will be important in the coming weeks and months. Our ten nature reserves will remain open 24/7, free of charge, to encourage everyone to enjoy our green, open spaces while observing recommended social distancing measures. We ask all visitors to our reserves to take extra care when making contact with surfaces, such as gates, leaflet racks and bird hides.

As a result of this week’s government advice we will not be running any volunteering sessions, schools visits or public events. This decision will be in place until Fri 1 May and will be kept under regular review. Our toilets at Seaton Wetlands remain open but this will be subject to regular review. These measures have been introduced to protect our volunteers, staff and the public and will be kept under constant review.

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Help through volunteering and community groups

We know that there are many volunteers and community groups who want to help others and we are committed to working together to support local people to get through this outbreak. We will work with Devon County Council, national bodies, town and parish councils, voluntary and community groups, and local businesses to help us build this response.

Councils will focus particularly on the needs and wellbeing of the critical ‘shielded cohort’ of people at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 who may be pregnant, over 70 or have other debilitating diseases. Their needs will be prioritised above others.

Local councils have been asked to set up hubs to co-ordinate volunteer efforts providing support for those people who may be self-isolating, in need, or vulnerable for other reasons.

Councils will be the administrative unit delivering these hubs with a focus on providing access to food, medicines and other supplies in the first instance.

Our immediate task is to identify the people with the right skill-set to harness this community effort and volunteers. Our officers are already in contact with many groups and are working to expand this network. We will work with town and parish councils, voluntary and community groups, other local leaders and local businesses to help us build this response.

There are already many great examples of people coming together to look out for each other and we will look to nurture this and do all we can to make sure there is a focus on getting real help and support to all those that are likely to need it most. As the situation develops we will update you with guidelines and will outline what we will be asking of you, to help us carry out the new duties required by Government.

We have already appointed a new Community Volunteer Co-ordinator from our existing team who is already in contact with community groups and will be actively exploring ways the council can support groups as quickly as we can.

How to volunteer

If you feel you may be able to assist, please could you respond by email to our new account covid.community@eastdevon.gov.uk  We will then be in touch as soon as we can with further details and advice.

Volunteering in your local community is a rewarding experience and there are a number of organisations who can help you get involved. Find out more on Gov.UK’s volunteering page.


Financial support

The government is working intensively with the local government sector to ensure the most vulnerable people in society are supported while protecting the local economy.

The Chancellor has set out a £12 billion package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, individuals and businesses through the economic disruption caused by COVID-19.

As part of the Budget, the government committed to providing Local Authorities with £500 million to support economically vulnerable individuals and households. It is expected that most of this funding will be used to provide more council tax relief, either through existing Local Council Tax Support schemes, or through complementary reliefs.


Support for businesses

The Chancellor has set out a package of temporary, timely and targeted measures to support public services, people and businesses through this period of disruption caused by COVID-19.
This includes the following:

Support for businesses that pay business rates

A £25,000 grant will be provided to retail, hospitality and leisure businesses operating from smaller premises, with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000. The government are not expecting this to be paid until April. We are expecting to receive guidance on this very shortly.

Support for businesses that pay little or no business rates:

  • The government will provide additional funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no business rates because of small business rate relief (SBBR). This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to businesses currently eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, to help meet their ongoing business costs.
  • If your business is eligible for SBRR or rural rate relief, you will be contacted by us – you do not need to apply.
  • Funding for the scheme will be provided to local authorities by government in early April. Guidance for local authorities on the scheme will be provided shortly.

Once we have the guidance on these grants, then we will aim to implement these quickly as we know how important this payment will be in supporting your business. Please check our website as we will keep this up to date with the latest information.

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Car parks

We have decided that we will not be bringing in our usual car park charging tariffs on 1 April this year in order to better support our town centre businesses during this difficult time. With the agreement of Council Leader Councillor Ben Ingham and Assets Portfolio Holder Councillor Geoff Pook, we will be retaining our winter offer (all day parking for £2 until midnight each day) into April and May. This decision will be kept under review and when demand begins to return to normal then we anticipate returning to our usual charging tariff.

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Changes to council services and attraction/event closures

The following changes have been made to council services and events including, sadly, closures of a number of council run attractions. Every effort will be made to keep the public updated, but in the meantime, the council would like to thank everyone for their support and understanding:

  • Thelma Hulbert Gallery (THG) – closed to the public until further notice, including all THG events and workshops. The learning programme will be rescheduled at a later date. For further information, please email: info@thelmahulbert.com
  • Manor Pavilion Theatre and Arts Centre, including the Box Office - closed to the public until further notice. Tickets purchased for an upcoming performance that is due to be cancelled will be fully refunded. For further information visit: https://www.manorpavilion.com/home or email: gwhitlock@eastdevon.gov.uk
  • Honiton Gate to Plate – this event, which is due to take place on 15 August 2020, hasn’t been cancelled as yet - the new event organisers Eat Festivals will communicate their decision in due course. 
  • Countryside events – the council has decided not to run volunteer-led events from Tuesday 17 March until Friday 1 May. This is to protect volunteers, staff, and the public from the Coronavirus epidemic Please check the website for details. Tickets that have been purchased in advance will be fully refunded. wild@eastdevon.gov.uk
  • Volunteers across the council will be standing down as part of the council’s approach to reduce social contact.
  • Housing community centres and social contact activities will be cancelled, but housing service staff are developing on-line activities.

Council meetings

It is expected that the vast majority of meetings will not need to go ahead because they are not dealing with essential matters during this time of crisis. However, as of now, the council will review the need to hold meetings on a rolling basis. Moving forwards, as a matter of priority, and subject to what Government permits local authorities to do, we are looking at ways of conducting urgent/important meetings remotely using Skype and/or conference calling.


Data protection and safeguarding

For data protection the Government is looking to significantly relax rules around the sharing of personal data between public sector bodies (Government, NHS and local government). For safeguarding they are looking to ensure that DBS checks, which are clearly expected to continue for those assisting in the voluntary sector, can be done within 24 hours.


Cemeteries and burials

We manage three cemeteries within the district and will continue to review our current procedures in response to any changes locally and nationally.


Emergency legislation

A draft bill is expected very shortly and will be considered by Parliament on accelerated timescales.


Guidance for councillors

The role of local councillors will be even more vital in the context of convening local efforts to support vulnerable people needing to self-isolate. The LGA is finalising guidance for councillors during the outbreak, which they aim to circulate before the end of the week .


Ways to pay

Because we’ve had to close our offices, we can no longer accept cash payments in person. But there are a number of other ways that you can pay your East Devon bills:

  • Direct Debit
  • Online
  • Telephone
  • BACS
  • Bank standing order
  • Post office
  • Payzone

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Planning

The planning service are continuing to process applications as much as possible within the current restrictions so if you have an application or other work pending with us then we are still considering it and will make a decision as soon as we can. If you have been notified of an application, which affects your property then please review the plans and submit any comments through our website, using the details included in the letter you will have received or notice posted at the site or in the press. Officers are still available on the telephone if you have any queries, but unfortunately we cannot meet with you at the present time.

If you have concerns about unauthorised building or other works in your area then please do still contact us with the details. We will investigate the issue when we can but due to the current restrictions there will be delay in responding to anything other than the highest priority cases.

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Trusted sources of advice and information

Please make sure that you only follow advice from trusted, official sources:

 

Devon County Council 

 

Gov.UK 

 

NHS England 

 

Public Health England