£22m shot in the arm will protect us during crisis
More than £22m will be spent by Staffordshire County Council to keep people safe, protect the most vulnerable and ease pressure on frontline services during the coronavirus pandemic.
Some of the money will be spent on a food distribution network to supply 20,000 parcels to vulnerable people in self-isolation, sourcing emergency supplies of personal protection equipment (PPE) for social care providers and construction of temporary mortuary facilities.
The move has been welcomed by Biddulph North County Coun Ian Lawson, who hoped that some of the money would find its way to the town to help it through the crisis.
Staffordshire County Council leader County Coun Philip Atkins said the county council would do “everything it takes” and spend “every pound it needs” to help save lives and support families and businesses through the enormous challenges which still lie in the months ahead.
He said: “Staffordshire has always had an amazing community spirit and it is incredible to see everyone pulling together as never before to help not only family, friends and neighbours, but also to help people who until days ago were simply strangers.
“We have seen businesses close, people being furloughed or losing their jobs, residential care homes and the NHS face crippling pressures and some of us have sadly lost loved ones before their time, including frontline care workers to this virus, which continues to show no mercy.
“That's why, as a county council, we will continue to do everything we can to help Staffordshire through the coming weeks. I would like to thank every person in the county who is stepping up to help us do this.”
The report setting out the county council's response to Covid-19 was due to be discussed yesterday (Wednesday) by the first virtual meeting of the Cabinet.
County Coun Lawson said: “It will be spent to help children, the elderly and those who are struggling because of coronavirus. A lot of people's lives have been absolutely shredded by this.”
Emergency measures set out in the report include:
• The allocation of £22.296m Government funding to the council's coronavirus battle fund, with further significant extra costs expected.
• The creation of a county-wide food distribution network to supply 20,000 parcels to vulnerable self-isolators.
• Creation of I Count - more than 750 council staff have volunteered to switch jobs to support critical roles.
• The recruitment, vetting and training of hundreds of people to provide home care as part of the I Care campaign.
• A raft of measures for care providers, including: financial support for agency staff, sickness cover and extra care packages.
• Exploration of additional financial support for the care sector.
• Early sourcing of emergency supplies of PPE for social care providers.
• Support for foster carers who have seen a drastic fall in income.
• Extra care packages for vulnerable children and adults being supported at home.
• Rent holiday for enterprise centre tenants.
• Construction of temporary mortuary facilities.
The details of the coronavirus spending came just two months after the county council set out its own budget and planned to reduce spending by £64m by 2024.
The council has now identified that due to the coronavirus response, there is a risk that at least £10m of savings included in the 2020/21 budget will not be delivered. This, together with additional costs arising from the crisis, could well result in an overall financial impact in excess of £50m.
County Coun Atkins said: “Our medium term financial strategy was agreed before the coronavirus began to cast its shadow and it is clear that there is a significant risk in now being able to deliver agreed savings in the timescales envisaged.
“While our immediate priority must be to do everything we can to tackle the coronavirus, we are also looking to the future. We are raising with Government the need to address the financial impact on our own county and local councils as we start to look with partners to rebuild services, businesses and our local economy.”
He added: “In the coming weeks, the challenge will remain huge and the toll on some will be sadly high, but I know that in Staffordshire we have the resilience, the resourcefulness and simply the sheer determination to see this through together.”