Emergency not over for delivering council services
Monday 29 June 2020
Covid-19 crisis will continue to impact council service delivery for some time to come.
Milton Keynes Council is still at the forefront of delivering essential services and the critical role of keeping people safe during COVID-19 crisis will continue even as some lockdown measures are relaxed.
While Milton Keynes Council has been open every day throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as a ‘category one responder’ it has specific duties in an emergency, alongside police, fire and health partners.
Essential services such as social care, weekly waste and recycling, helping rough sleepers and emergency road repairs have kept running throughout. Back office services have also worked around the clock on critical tasks including sharing more than £37million in Government grants with MK businesses.
Some face to face services are now only by phone or online to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Non-essential services that carry higher risks for local people and workers have been paused.
Council staff have been rediverted from non-critical roles, such as in libraries, to other essential tasks such as delivering thousands of food parcels and emergency medication, as well as making welfare calls to shielding residents and others in need. More than 14,000 local people have been directly helped this way since the start of the pandemic.
As lockdown eases the role of the Council will change again to preventing and controlling further outbreaks, as well as looking at ways of delivering critical services to the most vulnerable. This will mean that it is unlikely council services will return to normal for a significant period of time. Some services, such as registration for weddings and civil ceremonies will restart in a limited way from mid-July, others such as adult day services will need significant change to keep vulnerable users and carers safe, while services such as libraries will remain closed at the moment while being kept under review.
However, Council Leader Cllr Pete Marland warns that the extra responsibilities on the council as well as the need to keep people safe will mean there will be no quick return to normal services:
“The emergency is not over for MK Council. Our staff have done an amazing job in supporting people during the first phase of the crisis, but our focus and resources are now being pulled towards keeping people safe, preventing serious outbreaks and controlling the spread of Covid-19 as best we can.”
“I appreciate that with lockdown measures easing people might expect that council services will quickly follow the same path. However, while we will always monitor the latest guidance, the extra burdens being placed on us - alongside the fact we deliver a number of services to groups most at risk of serious harm from Covid-19, means MK Council needs to be honest and prepare people for the long haul. There will be no quick return to business as usual. I’m sure people will understand that it is not a lack of desire to restart services, but we will only do so when it is safe and sustainable to do so.”
“We’ve seen an outbreak at a nursery in MK recently where 23 people caught the virus while all sensible precautions were being followed on site. Facilities such as libraries and children’s centres are rightly much loved by residents and we’re proud to deliver them – but we won’t reopen them at the wrong time if the risk is too great. We all have a part to play to help MK control Covid-19, and we’re taking that seriously.
“MK Council has stood up and made a difference when it mattered most. The return to normal will require a lot of patience and understanding along the way that while some things are nice to have, we must prioritise keeping people safe at the moment.”