A number of “robust and effective” actions have been taken by St Albans City and District Council in response to the Covid-19 public health emergency.
“This has been an unprecedented challenge that’s placed huge demands on all our public services and the key workers that maintain them,” said Chris White, Liberal Democrat leader of the council.
Speaking at an online meeting of the council’s cabinet, Chris highlighted the work undertaken with partner organisations to help residents and businesses.
“As a council, we’ve taken a number of robust and effective measures to help combat the local impact of Covid-19. We’ve also worked closely with other local authorities, public agencies, charities and community groups as we are all in this together.”
The council is a ‘category one responder’, tasked by the Government to carry out a number of civil protection duties. During the past few weeks, the council has:
- Distributed about £17 million of government grants to 1,100 qualifying businesses in St Albans district, including pubs and restaurants, with a further £6 million due to be sent out shortly. The money is non-repayable and intended to help the companies survive the crisis.
- Secured accommodation, with the help of Hightown Housing Association and charities, for all the district’s rough sleepers, ensuring they have somewhere safe to go.
- Maintained waste collection, recycling and street cleaning services to ensure rubbish does not pile up outside homes or on the streets.
- Processed a high number of new claims for council tax support, increased housing benefit payments for some claimants in privately rented accommodation and provided advice on other benefits such as job seekers allowance and universal credit.
- Provided free parking at all council car parks to NHS staff and other key workers. Civil enforcement officers have also ensured roads remain accessible to emergency vehicles while deterring dangerous parking at junctions or loading bays.
- Helped with the administration of the volunteer scheme run by Communities 1st to help the elderly and other vulnerable groups.
- Identified and contacted vulnerable people, such as older housing tenants, to ensure they are getting the help they need.
“Great efforts have been made right across the council and beyond,” said Chris. “For example, our business rates team has been working flat out to channel millions of pounds in government grants to hundreds of our local businesses.
“They’ve given up the past two weekends to deal with this huge administrative challenge knowing that our businesses desperately need the money quickly to survive. On top of that, the team has also been dealing with a surge of enquiries about council tax support and other benefits.
“Our leisure contractors have also stepped up to the plate, locating thousands of items of personal protection equipment from its stores, including overshoes and medical grade gloves.
“This much-needed and valuable resource was then delivered to Watford General Hospital, which has been in the eye of the storm and badly needed supplies.
“I’ve also been impressed with the support the public has shown. Our bin crews, for instance, have been overwhelmed by the many thank-you messages they’ve received from people isolated at home.
“They’ve come across countless notes left on bins, while other residents have even put up homemade posters of support in their windows.
“It’s that sort of community spirit, combined with the heroic efforts of those on the frontline, that will eventually get the district through this crisis.”
Photo: A selection of the support messages from the public to waste contractor Veolia’s bin crews.