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Agenda item

Coronavirus (COVID-19) - Response and Recovery

Report (to follow) of the Interim Chief Executive.

 

Decision:

7.1

The Interim Chief Executive submitted a report setting out an overview of the Sheffield response to the Covid-19 pandemic to date, by reviewing the available information on how Sheffield City Council, with its partners, has responded since the onset of the crisis in March 2020. The report also set out the initial plans for recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

 

 

7.2

The Appendix to the report provided more comprehensive detail on the specific steps and actions the Council has undertaken with partners to support communities and businesses.

 

 

7.3

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:- 

 

 

 

(a)

recognises the commitment and dedication from employees in Sheffield City Council, Sheffield’s public sector, Voluntary Community and Faith Sector and private sector, who have worked tirelessly to support communities across the city;

 

 

 

 

(b)

thanks Sheffield’s citizens and communities for the support they have offered to each other and for following the vital public health guidance;

 

 

 

 

(c)

notes the specific actions that have been taken by the City Council and partners to respond to the Covid-19 emergency;

 

 

 

 

(d)

notes the steps that have been taken to start the city’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic;

 

 

 

 

(e)

approves the Council’s five priorities to underpin our recovery plan in the short-to-medium term;

 

 

 

 

(f)

notes the work that Sheffield is supporting alongside the South Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (SYLRF), Sheffield City Region, and the Core Cities; and

 

 

 

 

(g)

agrees to receive further updates on the city’s response and the development of the recovery and renewal plan.

 

 

 

7.4

Reasons for Decision

 

 

To formally place on record the Council’s thanks to organisations and individual citizens for the way in which they have responded to the Covid-19 emergency, and to obtain formal approval to the Council’s five priorities to underpin the recovery plan in the short-to-medium term.

 

 

7.5

Alternatives Considered and Rejected

 

 

There were no alternative options outlined in the report.

 

 

7.6

Any Interest Declared or Dispensation Granted

 

 

 

None

 

 

7.7

Reason for Exemption if Public/Press Excluded During Consideration

 

 

 

None

 

 

7.8

Respective Director Responsible for Implementation

 

 

 

Charlie Adan, Interim Chief Executive.

 

 

7.9

Relevant Scrutiny and Policy Development Committee If Decision Called In

 

 

 

Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee.

 

 

 

 

Minutes:

8.1

The Interim Chief Executive submitted a report setting out an overview of the Sheffield response to the Covid-19 pandemic to date, by reviewing the available information on how Sheffield City Council, with its partners, has responded since the onset of the crisis in March 2020. The report also set out the initial plans for recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

 

 

8.2

The Appendix to the report provided more comprehensive detail on the specific steps and actions the Council has undertaken with partners to support communities and businesses.

 

 

8.3

Charlie Adan (Interim Chief Executive) introduced the report, expressing her thanks to James Henderson (Director of Policy, Performance and Communications) and his team, who produced the report, and also echoing the comments made by the Leader at the commencement of the meeting.  Ms Adan also wished to express her thanks and appreciation for the excellent work undertaken by all the people of Sheffield in response to the pandemic, particularly to Members of the Cabinet, and all Members of the Council, for the great work undertaken by them in very unprecedented and difficult times.  She also expressed her thanks to all workers in the City for their excellent work, particularly to colleagues within the City Council and representatives of the trade unions, who had worked with the Council throughout the pandemic, and expressed her personal thanks to Greg Fell, Director of Public Health. She stressed that there was now a need to start looking at the recovery process. 

 

 

8.4

Ms Adan went through the report, indicating that these were very difficult times, and which involved an emergency that had never been experienced before and which, to date, was very difficult to predict when it would end, making the challenge even bigger.  The Council had a very clear purpose and clear principles from the outset, with its intention to keep the City’s residents safe, protect the vulnerable and keep the core services running, all in restrained circumstances, and whilst trying to maintain a certain level of normality.

 

 

8.5

Ms Adan referred to the five core principles set out in the report – Keep people safe and well; Protect the most vulnerable; Support people to get back to school and work safely when the time is right; Follow Government and scientific lead and help people with the difficult decisions they are having to make; and Support the City’s economic recovery.  She made reference to the planned collaborative work with the Council’s partners and referred to the need to identify a way of working with Members in terms of developing the City’s future.  There would be a specific focus in the City in dealing with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst being mindful and respective of all those people who had lost their lives to the disease.

 

 

8.6

Greg Fell (Director of Public Health) reported on the statistics regarding the pandemic, indicating that, as of 11th May 2020, there had been 40,640 potential cases identified in Sheffield via NHS 111 or 999, together with 2,354 cases confirmed by test.  As of 10th May 2020, there had been 194 confirmed Covid-19 patients in hospitals, and up to 5th May 2020, there had been 304 deaths from the virus, which had been registered in Sheffield, with 161 occurring in hospital and 143 in the community, which mainly involved care homes.  Mr Fell stressed that the rate of hospital deaths was now slowing.  He also stated that approximately 95% of those people who had died from the disease had at least one underlying health condition.  Mr Fell stressed that the numbers of people being diagnosed and deaths was now very low.  In terms of social care, he reported that, during May and June, 280 people had required additional social care following discharge from hospital after suffering from Covid-19, with 250 being cared for at home, and 30 being cared for in a care home.  There were approximately 30,000 people in the shielded cohort, and who required significant mobilisation of both Council and the voluntary community sector services across the City.  Mr Fell stated that there were concerns with regard to the impact on non-Covid illnesses, in that it had been found that people were not using healthcare as much as they should be and, as a result, the NHS had commenced a campaign to highlight this fact.  He stated that work was continuing in terms of fully understanding the impact of Covid-19.  Mr Fell wished to dispel the myth about the high number of cases in Sheffield, stating that the Sheffield NHS Teaching Hospital had started testing staff in large numbers at a very early stage, and, in fact, the number of cases was similar to those in other major cities.

 

 

8.7

Mr Fell reported that wave one of the pandemic was coming to an end, with the number of deaths being considerably lower than the predicted worse-case scenario, which he believed had been due to the efforts of all Sheffield residents in terms of adhering to the lockdown measures, as well as to the excellent work undertaken by staff of the NHS and those in the Voluntary, Community and Faith (VCF) sector.  He warned of a potential second wave and that, for this reason, certain measures would remain in place, such as social distancing and hand-washing, with further communications campaigns to highlight this.  Mr Fell referred to the fact that, as the pandemic had been classed as an emergency, the South Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (SYLRF) had been deployed, and there had been an officer-heavy response, which had been both fluid and emergent, as well as resulting in fundamental changes to the way a number of Council services operated.  He made reference to the constraints with regard to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing and tracing, which had been well publicised in the press.  The Council had received a good response from the care homes in the City, but the national/local interface had not worked very well, particularly with regard to shielding and planning assumptions and modelling.  Mr Fell concluded by referring to the work required with regard to re-opening the City Centre, and how the Council had implemented Covid-secure standards in the City, whilst working within Government guidelines. 

 

 

8.8

Eugene Walker (Executive Director, Resources) reported on the work undertaken by the Council in terms of supporting those vulnerable people who had been forced to shield at home.  He stated that the Council had implemented a number of interventions at a local level, ensuring that the correct people were targeted, and which included a whole-community approach.  The work had highlighted how effective the City could be in terms of working at a local level, and had included input from relevant Council staff, the VCF sector, the NHS, local businesses and volunteers.  Residents were able to call the Council’s Call Centre, using a single telephone number, which had been well publicised and, as well as being able to apply for emergency food packages, people were also able to access wider support in light of the wider impacts of the pandemic, including mental health issues.  The Council had also offered additional financial support to the voluntary sector, particularly with regard to the provision of food banks and, in conjunction with the Clinical Commissioning Group, had invested £300,000 to ensure that food banks had sufficient supplies.

 

 

8.9

John Macilwraith (Executive Director, People Services) reported on the issues with regard to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which had proved to be a critical issue, particularly at the outset of the pandemic, and of which there had been a significant improvement in the supply over the last few weeks.  The Council was working as a member of the South Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum, and the City had received regular supplies of the equipment from the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).  The MHCLG provided around 10% to 20% of the City’s overall need with regard to demand for PPE, and the Council had been able to procure the remaining 80% of its demand through its own sources both nationally and internationally.  Sheffield had been leading on a central procurement model for the SYLRF with regard to PPE, and equipment had been delivered to over 200 establishments across the City on a weekly basis, with approximately 85% of such equipment being provided to the independent care sector.  Mr Macilwraith stated that over the last three weeks, each of the South Yorkshire local authorities, as part of the SYLRF, had a minimum of five days’ supply to meet their respective demands.  In addition to this, SYLRF and the MHCLG had about four weeks of stock available, which included approximately 1.6 million aprons.  The supply of such equipment had been relatively successful, but still remained a challenge, and the Council would continue to try and achieve a stock level of 12 weeks’ worth of equipment.  With regard to adult social care, the Council was working with its health partners on a single health and care support plan, and had trained volunteers to support some of the work undertaken in care homes.  This had resulted in over 800 hours of care being provided to care homes in respect of staffing deficits, delivery of PPE to homes, regular contact with homecare providers and care homes, and working with them in order to meet their additional costs resulting from Covid-19.  The Council continued to meet its statutory duties with regard to safeguarding vulnerable adults, and delayed transfers into care was currently at a very low level.  Colleagues in health and social care had helped the Council to respond to numerous calls for help and assistance, with locality and First Point contact teams involved in such work.  In terms of children’s care, the Council had remodelled the safeguarding hub to receive virtual contacts only to enable it to continue to maintain a safeguarding system.  The Council was still in contact with children, using the new methods, to which a number of young people had responded very positively to.  The Council continued to be in contact with care leavers, with the Children in Care Council and the Care Leavers Union continuing to meet virtually.  Mr Macilwraith indicated that he was aware that the Council’s placement stability for children looked after remained good, and that the Council had reorganised its model of delivery across the City due to staff absences caused by the pandemic, and had created a more centralised model to build in further resilience.  The Council was aware which children should be prioritised, and that visits continued to be made where there were child protection issues.  In terms of schools, 120 remained open with approximately 1,500 young people attending each day, with 20% of vulnerable children attending, which was viewed as very reassuring.  The Council still had a focus on children studying at home, and Learn Sheffield had been providing support to the Council with regard to this.  There was an awareness that schools were working well with each other and with their local communities.  The Council was about to provide 1,700 laptops to vulnerable children to assist with their learning.  Mr Macilwraith concluded by stating that he was holding weekly conversations with the Secretary of the Sheffield Parent Carer Forum, to discuss any issues arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

 

 

8.10

Laraine Manley (Executive Director, Place) reported that the pandemic had presented a major challenge for both the Council and the City as a whole, and had resulted in a large number of Council staff either undertaking different jobs or undertaking their own jobs in a different manner.  The work undertaken by the Place Portfolio had included the provision of safe accommodation for the homeless and rough sleepers, with staff providing support to such people, in terms of the provision of meals.  There were approximately 100 such people in safe accommodation, and 1,100 residents in sheltered accommodation, with the vast majority currently shielding, therefore provision had to be made in terms of shopping, contact, support and arranging activities to keep them safe.  All key facilities had been maintained and all core services were still in operation, using safe systems of work.  Public paths and rights of way had been kept open, household recycling facilities, bin collections and emergency repairs continued to be undertaken, and advice was being provided to businesses and charities in terms of how and where they could find support.  Enforcement action had been taken against those residents failing to adhere to lockdown measures.  A number of schemes had been developed to enable residents to walk and cycle safely, with social distancing measures in place, and the Bereavement Services Team had provided an excellent service, in very difficult circumstances, in terms of arranging funeral services with reduced numbers of mourners and shorter ceremonies.  Progression had been made in terms of some key development projects, including Heart of the City II, and a number of other development sites were getting back on track, all adopting safe working practices.  Meetings of the Planning and Highways and Licensing Committees had recommenced, as online video conferences, and a number of other services were looking to get back to work, whilst recognising different working practices, including the increased use of mobile Information Technology.

 

 

8.11

Eugene Walker (Executive Director, Resources) reported that grants and support were available to businesses, as part of a large, national support scheme, and a considerable amount of work had been undertaken to enable this to operate successfully at a local level.  Around £80 million had been provided to around 7,000 businesses.  The process was labour-intensive, with a considerable number of checks required, and the Council had worked in line with other large cities.  There had been centralised procurement for PPE for the South Yorkshire region in order to ensure the supply chain for such equipment was kept running.  A huge number of staff continued to work from home, which required a high level of IT work, and changes to their working practices.  Mr Walker stressed that the financial impact of the pandemic on the City would be massive, with a current estimate of around £77 million.  Around £50 million of this related to the current financial year and included lost income in terms of parking fees and other sources, as well as additional costs, which would all have an adverse impact on the £16 million savings the Council had budgeted for this year, and was now not likely to be accomplished.  The Council had received £34 million in Government grants which, whilst welcomed, had not been sufficient to cover the total costs.  There had therefore been a £16 million shortfall, and the Council had been forced to draw on its reserves, placing further pressure on future financial stability.  There was a strong likelihood that the Council could exhaust its reserves in 2 years’ time.  The Council had also received business grants from the Government together with additional support for care homes.

 

 

8.12

As a summary, Charlie Adan highlighted the fact that the pandemic would have a major impact on the City, as well as how the Council operated going forward.  She stressed that there was a need to look at new ways of working, which were both sustainable and took people’s health and wellbeing into consideration.  She stated that there was still a considerable amount of work to be undertaken, and that the City was now focusing its efforts on a recovery strategy, and building a new future for the City. 

 

 

8.13

Members of the Cabinet reported on the issues and action taken in response to the pandemic in their respective portfolio areas, as follows:-

 

 

8.13.1

Councillor Abtisam Mohamed (Cabinet Member for Education and Skills) reported that over 4,000 hampers had been sent to vulnerable families over the Easter holidays, which had included considerable assistance from schools staff and volunteers, and she wished to express her gratitude to all.  She stated that she was disappointed by the Government announcement at schools being asked to remain open during the Easter holidays, whilst not providing funding for free school meals, and that she would raise this issue with the local Members of Parliament.  Councillor Mohamed concluded by referring to the amazing response by the community, and expressed special thanks to the voluntary and community sector organisations, particularly those smaller and medium-sized groups.

 

 

8.13.2

Councillor George Lindars-Hammond (Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care) stated that he had welcomed the manner in how Commissioning Officers had responded to the numerous concerns raised by care homes and homecare providers, particularly with regard to the supply of PPE.  He also welcomed how the Council had been able to continue providing relevant services, particularly as some members of staff would have either suffered from Covid-19, or had been forced to self-isolate or shield.  He expressed his gratitude for the excellent service provided to care homes and domiciliary care, and praised the efforts made by both existing and newly recruited staff.

 

 

8.13.3

Councillor Jackie Drayton (Cabinet Member for Children and Families) echoed the comments made with regard to the excellent work undertaken by the people of Sheffield, in very difficult circumstances, expressing particular thanks for the work undertaken in care homes and for the support provided for people with learning difficulties.  She made specific reference to circumstances where people had gone over and above in terms of their actions, including people writing to people in care homes, a school making protective visors and people organising social gatherings, stating that it would be nice to continue this creativity going forward.  Councillor Drayton referred to difficult times faced by those people being affected by domestic abuse and those with mental health problems, stressing the importance of help and assistance being provided to such people, particularly as the present conditions were likely to result in an increase in such cases. 

 

 

8.13.4

Councillor Paul Wood (Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Community Safety) also expressed his thanks to officers within his portfolio area for the excellent work they had undertaken, and in such a quick and efficient manner.  He stated that he was pleased that construction work was starting up again, and hoped that a local supply chain could be built in as part of the developments.  He stated that there was a need to give consideration as to how local communities could be assisted and funded.  In response to a question raised by Councillor Wood with regard to the Business Intervention Grant, it was reported that the Council had received clear guidelines from the Government, which indicated that charities were eligible for such grants, but only those having retail premises.  Details of a follow-up scheme had just been announced, where consideration could be given to other charities being eligible.  Officers indicated that they would welcome any examples of specific organisations to which grants could be targeted. 

 

 

8.13.5

Councillor Mazher Iqbal (Cabinet Member for Business and Investment) also expressed his thanks and appreciation in respect of the excellent work undertaken in the City, and invited the public to read the report now submitted, so that they could see the details of the work being undertaken by the Council and its various partners.  He stated that it had been a huge challenge with regard to business and investment, with particular problems being faced by the hospitality sector, particularly in the light of the lack of clarity in terms of the guidance issued by the Government regarding what businesses could or couldn't do.  Whilst over £18 million had been distributed to around 7,000 businesses in the City, several businesses did not meet the Government’s criteria for qualification, and the discretionary fund provided by the Government was not as much as first promised.  The Council had also been supporting businesses online.  Councillor Iqbal stated that the business sector was key to helping the City to recover, and it was very difficult for businesses to make decisions, particularly when they were not sure of what the demand was going to be like.

 

 

8.13.6

Councillor Bob Johnson (Cabinet Member for Transport and Development) also expressed his thanks to all Council staff for the work undertaken in such difficult times.  He stated that the Council was working with a number of groups and organisations, including the City Region, with regard to transport and active travel issues.  He stated that the Council had received a small amount of funding from the City Region for initiating small-scale active travel schemes, and stressed that the Council needed to be ambitious, and act quickly to utilise such funding.

 

 

8.13.7

Councillor Mark Jones (Cabinet Member for Environment, Screetscene and Climate Change) expressed his appreciation with regard to how Sheffield residents had pulled together, and stated that, whilst the majority of people had followed the Government’s instructions, a number of people had unfortunately not done so, which could possibly have been due to a lack of information provided, or confusion with regard to the messages.  He stated that there would be a need to invest a considerable level of resource as and when people started going back to work, particularly with regard to the implementation of safe working practices in business premises.  Unlike many other cities, Sheffield had maintained its recycling offer.  Councillor Jones requested that work should continue on improving the City’s flood defences, in preparation for winter, and asked that the public be respectful to all Council officers working in such difficult circumstances.

 

 

8.13.8

Councillor Mary Lea (Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure) passed on her condolences to all those people who had lost family members or friends, either through Covid-19 or otherwise, and expressed her sympathies to those people with regard to the difficulties they faced attending funeral services.  In terms of library services, the Council had invested £20,000 in e-books and a number of new users had joined libraries in the City.  A further positive was that the Smoking Cessation Service had recently started a campaign, which had resulted in an increase in referrals of 53%.  There had been a considerable level of creativity within the cultural sector in terms of new ideas, and residents were still able to use all the City’s parks.  The Council had received a number of queries from residents in terms of when they would be able to undertake more activities in parks, such as crown green bowling.  Councillor Lea expressed her thanks to all Council staff and residents in the communities for the excellent work they had undertaken. 

 

 

8.13.9

Councillor Terry Fox (Cabinet Member for Finance, Resources and Governance) stated that the City had faced a number of problems in the past, and it had always come back stronger, so there was no reason it could not do the same in these circumstances.  He referred to the excellent community spirit, which had highlighted the good in many Sheffield residents.  Councillor Fox had met with the trade unions and Human Resources officers, in connection with making some very tough decisions with regard to changes to staff job descriptions.  He expressed concerns with regard to the Council’s budget, indicating that whilst the funding from the Government was welcomed, it was not enough to fund all the additional work required as a result of the pandemic.  He stated that there was a need to keep lobbying the Government in terms of future funding, and expressed particular pleasure at the fact that the City’s parks were being kept open and maintained. 

 

 

8.14

Councillor Julie Dore (the Leader of the Council) expressed her dissatisfaction with the Government’s response, advice and levels of funding in respect of the pandemic, and stated that, given the seriousness of the issue, it was important that people could trust the Government to act in their best interests.  She expressed her thanks to fellow Members for the excellent work undertaken in their respective Wards with regard to the response to the pandemic, and expressed special thanks to Greg Fell, who she believed had dealt with all aspects of the issue excellently, whilst being under serious pressure.  Councillor Dore encouraged members of the public to sign up for email alerts from the Council on all aspects of the pandemic, or to access the Newsroom on the Council website, as well as reading the report now submitted. 

 

 

8.15

RESOLVED: That Cabinet:- 

 

 

 

(a)      recognises the commitment and dedication from employees in Sheffield City Council, Sheffield’s public sector, Voluntary Community and Faith Sector and private sector, who have worked tirelessly to support communities across the City;

 

 

 

(b)      thanks Sheffield’s citizens and communities for the support they have offered to each other and for following the vital public health guidance;

 

 

 

(c)      notes the specific actions that have been taken by the City Council and partners to respond to the Covid-19 emergency;

 

 

 

(d)      notes the steps that have been taken to start the city’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic;

 

 

 

(e)      approves the Council’s five priorities to underpin our recovery plan in the short-to-medium term;

 

 

 

(f)       notes the work that Sheffield is supporting alongside the South Yorkshire Local Resilience Forum (SYLRF), Sheffield City Region, and the Core Cities; and

 

 

 

(g)      agrees to receive further updates on the city’s response and the development of the recovery and renewal plan.

 

 

8.16

Reasons for Decision

 

 

 

To formally place on record the Council’s thanks to organisations and individual citizens for the way in which they have responded to the Covid-19 emergency, and to obtain formal approval to the Council’s five priorities to underpin the recovery plan in the short-to-medium term.

 

 

8.17

Alternatives Considered and Rejected

 

 

 

There were no alternative options outlined in the report.

 

 

Supporting documents: