Stroud District Councillors’ Report
Coronavirus / COVID-19
Continuity of Council business
Council staff continue to work from home with many redeployed to support the SDC Coronavirus response – working with other partners across the county. Staff absence rates to date have been low (currently less than 2 %).
All Ubico waste and recycling services are running as normal and the SDC Customer Contact service is busy – receiving over 1500 calls and over 3000 emails in the last week alone. Almost 40% of calls were about Council Tax & Business Rates and 20% were related to Refuse & Recycling. Some council activities which have had to close – such as The Pulse in Dursley have found alternative ways to provide services – for example through free exercise videos and live Facebook classes.
Group leaders continued to meet regularly (and remotely) with the Chief Executive and strategic directors. The Conservative group leader has been included in these leadership meetings (in addition to the usual leadership group of Labour, Green and Lib Dem group leaders) during the crisis to ensure all parties are engaged and informed in the local response.
Public council meetings were suspended during April, as the priority was rightly on the council’s support to the community and prioritising of frontline work. Urgent decisions were taken by senior officers in discussion with the relevant committee chair, and group leaders where required. Decisions taken during April can be found here and covered:
Guidance has now been issued on holding remote meeting and the first full council meeting will take place on Tuesday 19 May.
Household Recycling Centres
The County Council is leading on the reopening of all the Household Recycling Centres / tips. We expect the Horsley site to open a week after the first sites (week commencing 18 May) and with a booking appointment system to avoid queues and to allow for social distancing.
SDC has so far distributed £21.46 million in business grants to 1,920 accounts. To put this into context, the total amount of funding SDC has received from Government is £26.386m. The Revenues & Benefits team has identified over two thousand grant payments to be made, totalling £27.77 million. They have written to more than 700 businesses in the district to urge them to apply for a business grant. The two business grant schemes are:
1 – Business Support Grants Fund
Properties in receipt of rural rate relief or small business rates relief on 11th March, including those in receipt of tapered relief, will be eligible for a grant payment of £10,000.
2 – Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grants
Businesses in receipt of the Expanded Retail Discount (which covers retail, hospitality and leisure) with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for the following cash grants per property.
For more information: https://www.stroud.gov.uk/health-wellbeing/coronavirus/businesses-and-employers
The Community Resilience Grant Fund was launched on 2 April, comprising £100,000 (£50,000 from GCC and £50,000 from SDC). So far, £31,682 has been distributed to 33 Covid-19 community groups – including a contribution to the Wotton Area Mutual Aid Group and the GL11 Community Hub. For more information see: https://www.stroud.gov.uk/health-wellbeing/coronavirus/strouddistrict-community-resilience-fund-covid-19-response.
Council officer are continuing to make calls and visits to vulnerable people in the district – and providing help as needed and contacts for relevant support services and local mutual aid groups. This also includes following up any requests for help that are made via the GCC Community Help Hub.
The Environmental Health team have recorded a big increase in complaints about noise and smoke since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic. Between 22 March and 20 April, 57 noise complaints were received compared to 14 in the same period last year, and 73 complaints about smoke compared to just 12 last year. Residents are being encouraged to think of the effect their actions could have on their neighbours – and where necessary SDC will use the legal powers in place to tackle these issues.
To report a bonfire or smoke nuisance: https://www.stroud.gov.uk/report/report-pollution-eg-bonfire-or-smoke-nuisance
To report a noise nuisance: https://www.stroud.gov.uk/report/report-noise-nuisance
In Stroud District, 17 rough sleepers and sofa-surfers have been accommodated under the Covid 19 Emergency Accommodation Protocol. So far only two people have refused accommodation. In anticipation of increased pressure on housing services as a direct or indirect consequence of Covid 19 legislation, all placements in SDC housing stock since 16 March SDC have solely been through homeless applications.
Council officers continue to work with the Beresford Group domestic abuse refuge to move families on from the refuges to our stock, freeing up refuge spaces. The Housing Advice Team have continued with their usual work and have assisted 10 households into private sector properties to prevent homelessness since the start of the lockdown and more than 20 households have made homeless applications.