COVID-19: What we are doing to support Plymouth

We have responded very quickly to the rapidly changing national effort to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

City Council employees have been working flat out over the last couple of weeks to manage the impact on COVID-19 maintaining local services as long as possible, protecting the elderly and vulnerable, while implementing the fast-changing directives from Government.

We have kept our services running as long as possible while trying to keep our customers and staff safe and making a ‘phased retreat’ to homeworking and closing down services in line with Government guidance.

As well as implementing Government initiatives, we are introducing our own specific measures to support the city through this, including:

  • Supporting businesses with business rates deferral
  • Offering revised Council Tax payment options
  • Implementing Council Tax discounts for those who receive Council Tax Support
  • Introducing free parking in the city centre for key workers
  • Setting up a good neighbour scheme
  • Removing national bus pass time restrictions on concessions
  • Suspending Tamar Bridge and Torpoint Ferry tolls

 

Focusing our support

We are currently providing focused support to ensure we are supporting vulnerable residents in our community, as well as the many businesses in the city who are being impacted by Covid-19.

 

Supporting vulnerable residents

We are helping implement one of the largest humanitarian efforts in peacetime Plymouth, coordinating support for an estimated 8,000 people who have been identified as being the most vulnerable people in Plymouth through their age or medical conditions.

We're confident that we can deliver this but it is a massive undertaking, logistically and administratively.

We will be redeploying people from all over the council to help answer phones, to guide people through this incredibly difficult time and to help deliver services to people’s doors.

Following advice from the government last week that the over 70s should stay at home, we immediately started work on a Good Neighbour Scheme which has now been expanded to incorporate the ‘medically vulnerable’ who must isolate for 12 weeks.

The Good Neighbours Scheme will help coordinate this effort and we have already had over 200 volunteers register. This is a great response and we are grateful to everyone who has come forward. If you would like to be involved you can find more information on: www.plymouth.gov.uk/goodneighbourscheme

We will be announcing more on this shortly.

 

Supporting businesses

COVID-19 is having a huge impact on many businesses and we are working tirelessly to put in measures that support them, as well as signposting them to where they can get help.

In recognition of the severe impact on business cash flow, we immediately deferred payments of business rates for two months so that businesses can pay their normal bills over 10 months rather than 12.

We are working hard to implement the additional support for eligible businesses which will ensure all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses will not pay business rates for 2020/21.

We will also be working to implement the new grants that many businesses will be eligible for, including those currently in receipt of Small Business Rate Relief and retail, hospitality and leisure businesses.

We have now received additional guidance from the Government about how to provide this support and our team is working hard to set up the necessary processes, as fast as possible.

We are also working with our own business tenants on any hardship requests over rents.

We are providing a wide range of information for businesses at our www.visitplymouth/invest.co.uk

 

We are supporting our communities in many other ways

Our Nature Plymouth and the Natural Infrastructure Team are sharing ways to remain in touch with green spaces while maintaining social distancing. Our parks are open and staff are out reminding people of the need to keep apart from each other.

Our Street Services team is continuing with the city’s bin collections and other essential services.

Our education team is supporting and advising schools as they implement the new arrangements for keeping schools open for vulnerable children and children of key workers, as well as making arrangements for the holiday period.

Our children’s services team is continuing to deliver services to vulnerable children and young people and those in need of protection.

Our finance teams are supporting households who are worried about their ability to pay their Council Tax if their income has been impacted by Covid-19.

Our social care teams are supporting Derriford Hospital in ensuring people can leave hospital by securing beds and bed spaces in the community.

Our Trading Standards team is warning people about a spate of Covid-19 related scams

Our library service is providing free online resources for residents and will be continuing Rhyme Time and some other activities digitally

Our youth services team is available to young people through Facebook.

Our Community Connections team is providing a wide range of support for vulnerable people in our community, including help for homeless people. We will be ensuring all rough sleepers are off the streets by the end of the week in line with Government guidance.

 

How we are managing our Covid-19 operation

Coordinating efforts to manage the impact of Covid-19 is a huge operation, being run from an Emergency Operations Centre at Windsor House in Derriford.

Our Director of Public Health and our public health team have been working closely

with our partners, including Public Health England, and have been supporting a range of different settings and organisations in responding to the issues that this virus creates.

The Council’s elected Members have a vital role to play during this crisis, and are inputting on a daily basis into our decision-making.

 

Our workforce

We are having to balance the need to deliver key services, such as caring for vulnerable residents and collecting refuse, with the safety of our staff and customers.

Our staff have shown great commitment over the last few weeks and flexibility in taking on new roles. They have been doing everything they can to ensure we do everything we can to protect the residents of Plymouth, while looking out for colleagues.

As our own workforce is impacted through illness and self-isolation, we must ensure that we have employees available to carry out critical roles. This will be even more crucial when the impact of the virus means more of the population is affected. To maintain services it will be essential that many employees carry out roles different from their usual ones.

National guidance says all local government staff are likely to be critical in the delivery of services to protect the vulnerable as the country tries to minimise the impact of coronavirus.

This is why, like many other authorities, we are considering all employees as key workers.

This does not mean all our key workers with children are sending them to school. The vast majority are either working from home and looking after their children there or making alternative childcare arrangements.

Staff are only sending their children to school if they have to carry out key roles critical to the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and cannot work from home. We are receiving regular updates from schools on the number of children of key workers across the city and from all sectors.

Out of the 20,696 primary aged children in Plymouth, 790 were in school on Monday.

Out of 16,783 secondary aged pupils in Plymouth, 142 were in school on Monday.

 

How Council employees are working

All employees who can work from home are now doing so in line with the Government guidance.

We still have some services that are still running or working – with additional safety measures – in usual workplaces.

In some instances, we have taken a phased approach to reducing services. Earlier this week trees were planted before they died. These services are being kept under constant review to ensure we are keeping employees and customers safe.

All employees who are working around the city and in key workplaces are being continuously supported in following safe distancing and hygiene guidance.

 

Keeping in touch

We are keeping Plymouth residents up-to-date with this fast changing situation through Facebook and Twitter and our website: www.plymouth.gov.uk

We are also providing updates through regular email bulletins. You can sign up here: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/UKPCC/subscriber/new

We have a wide range of information about support for businesses at our www.visitplymouth/invest.co.uk