19 March 2020

COVID-19 - A message of thanks from Council Leader Nancy Platts

I want to thank all council staff across the departments who are working flat out and around the clock to deliver vital services to our residents in difficult circumstances. 

The government yesterday announced that schools will be closing from tomorrow until further notice, and it is key we all follow the government and Public Health England advice in relation to social distancing, working and gatherings, because it is regularly being updated. 

The council - like many others in the public sector - provides essential public services to residents - some of whom are vulnerable. We're doing everything we can to keep democracy running as smoothly as possible, to keep key services across the city up and running, and to work with partner organisations and residents across Brighton & Hove to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

It’s no exaggeration to say that some of services the council provides protect people’s lives, whether this be via our social work or by ensuring payments are made so that people have money to buy food and heat their homes.

We're working hard to protect our most vulnerable residents. 

Some of our key roles simply cannot be performed from home and where these business-critical services are being identified, staff working within those services will be supported to work from their normal place of work. It’s just not possible to stop carrying out these services.

What we must all continue to do is wash our hands regularly and thoroughly and practice good hygiene. 

I’d encourage everyone to check the council website and the government website for up to date advice and information on what you can do to minimise the spread of the virus and keep others safe.

Yesterday I sent an open letter to supermarkets in Brighton & Hove, calling on them to put in place further contingency measures to mitigate against stockpiling. There is enough to go around if we all just buy what we need.

Panic buying is really unhelpful, and we should all continue to think about our neighbours and our communities. We should also only be buying specialist foods such as gluten-free if we specifically need them, to ensure those who do can access them.

We have an army of people getting in touch who are wanting to support and take care of each other and their communities. This is typical of Brighton & Hove and I’m incredibly proud of our city.

We do need to have oversight and organise this action though so that people continue to be safe and are protected. Residents can check the council website for information on how they can safely help in their communities, from donating spare items to the local foodbank to checking in on an elderly neighbour.

The council has also written to businesses across the city identified by our finance team as potentially eligible for the business rate relief announced by the government, with more information on how to contact us if they need to.

The council already provides critical services to local businesses many of whom are now feeling economically fragile. We know that industries like hospitality are particularly feeling the impact of the latest measures, and we are supporting these businesses and others, and trying to ensure that they get the financial relief the government has outlined. 

I welcome the measures announced by the government to support our businesses and residents, and I hope to see more support for residents in the private rental sector and some of our most vulnerable groups on benefits, so I’m also calling on the government to reinstate the safety net as a matter of urgency.