Bridgend council leaders reveal plan for phased recovery from coronavirus

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Bridgend council leaders are planning a phased recovery from Covid-19 which is expected to last between 12 to 18 months.

The council’s plans for the borough’s recovery include a review of its budget for 2020/21, support for local businesses, and preparations for a possible second wave of the virus.

A report to the cabinet of Bridgend County Borough Council by chief executive Mark Shephard outlined the council’s recovery plan from the Covid-19 pandemic.

High on the council’s agenda is the financial recovery of local businesses.

“We know that many businesses will struggle in Bridgend and they will be struggling right across the country,” said Cllr David.

“We want to give our high street traders a chance.”

A taskforce led by council leader Huw David will be put in place to assess the economic impact of Covid-19 on the local economy and a ring-fenced budget will be given to support it.

To encourage residents to shop locally, the council waived parking fees in selected car parks last month.

According to Cllr David, the parking fees will be reviewed “on an ongoing basis”.

Other measures put in place by the council to support local traders include providing them with free sneeze guards and online Covid-19 training.

The recovery plan also detailed the financial impact of the pandemic on the council such as reduced income from council tax and bearing the cost of new services like contact tracing.

So far, the council has claimed £2.9 million of additional expenditure from the Welsh Government with an estimated loss of income of around £2.2 million for the first quarter of the financial year.

It is unclear what financial support will be available from both the Welsh and UK governments in the long-term.

“The Welsh Government has been really supportive,” said Mr Shephard.

“They’re trying to fund as many of the claims for local government as they can.

“But it’s not a bottomless pit either.”

According to Shephard’s report, the council will review its budget for the 2020/21 financial year and reprioritise its financial resources.

It will also assess the delivery of each service area in terms of what has worked well since lockdown and any challenges, risks and costs that have emerged.

Among these changes will be an increase in virtual working which Cllr David said has “worked really well” during the pandemic.

He said this will continue in the future because it is cost-effective and environmentally-friendly.

Although the delivery of council services will change, Cllr David and Mr Shephard told the Local Democracy Service there are currently no plans to cut council jobs.

“We will do everything we can to avoid job losses”, said Cllr David.

“Our staff have been absolutely amazing in this crisis and I can’t thank them enough.

“We’ve been blown over actually by the feedback we’ve had from our residents about what a difference they’ve made to people right across the borough so the last thing we’re going to be doing is showing our appreciation of staff by looking at job losses.”

Cllr David also said more jobs are “badly needed” throughout the country and so the UK government must continue to provide funding for local authorities.

“We need to see that investment from the UK government otherwise we’re in for a very very difficult and rocky and long recovery.”

The Test Trace Protect programme will also remain a key priority for the council moving forward.

“Unlike in England, we’ve successfully traced almost everyone,” said Mr Shephard. “People have been very compliant.”

Cllr David said there are no specific targets set for contact tracing but the council aims to “trace as many contacts as possible”.

“The key to the success of this is the support and cooperation of the people who we are tracing and we have full support and engagement from the people of Bridgend.

“For us to return to a new normal it is vital that it continues to be as successful as it has been so that we can seek out the virus wherever there’s any small outbreaks and contain it.”

To prepare for a second wave or localised outbreak of the virus, the council will also continue to stockpile personal protective equipment (PPE).

Other priorities listed in the report include the return of pupils to schools in September, support for homeless people in the borough and monitoring the well-being of council staff.



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