'Robust' arrangements aim to ensure services continue over coming months
March 19, 2020
Care for the elderly and vulnerable residents remains a top priority while other vital services are continuing to run, Ealing Council’s leader has said.
In a statement to residents, councillor Julian Bell assured “robust contingency plans” were in place to ensure services would continue over the coming months.
Changes however have also been announced, with all libraries – except Ealing Central Library – temporarily closing its doors.
Following the government’s announcement of school closures from Friday, 20 March, the council also said spaces will be available for vulnerable children and children of key workers, such as in the health service, to continue going to school in the borough.
It was also confirmed GCSE and A-Level exams will not go-ahead.
“This will be a testing time, but Ealing’s community is our greatest strength. I have seen local people quickly and instinctively come together in recent days to support those who may need help,” Cllr Bell said.
“This community spirit will be invaluable in the weeks ahead and I ask everyone to reach out to any vulnerable or elderly neighbours, including single parents and those that live alone.”
And he also called on residents to support the high streets which could face a “financial calamity”.
“I urge you to support local businesses and those they employ. While the government has identified support, our high streets will still struggle and could face financial calamity as a result of this crisis. So do support your high street and those that work in our shops,” he added.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service on Monday, 16 March, the council boss also revealed the body was working to set up its own coronavirus emergency fund alongside the government’s national hardship £500m pot which he believed “would not be enough” to fully buffer the impact on the area.
“I have already talked to my officers about how we need to have our own coronavirus emergency fund and use reserves for that,” Cllr Bell explained.
“We always say reserves are for a rainy day and blimey this is a rainy day. This is the time to get the reserves out and use them.”
Discussions are also in place over what are critical council-run services and how to keep them going.
Cllr Bell added, “Social care workers and social workers have got to carry on being out there on the frontline with those vulnerable residents…We have got some rigorous plans on how to deal with the pandemic like this.
“We will have to make some decisions about what are our critical services that we have to keep running.
“We might have to stop non-key services and focus on keeping our critical services going.”
As of Monday, Cllr Bell confirmed two councillors were self-isolating, while Ealing Southall MP Virendra Sharma had also said he was taking those measures for seven days on advice from the NHS.
Ealing Central and Acton MP Rupa Huq also announced on Wednesday, 18 March, that she was suspending surgery appointments from now on.
All non-essential council meetings have also been cancelled for the coming weeks, including ward forums.
“We want to be transparent, we want to be open, but equally we want to stop the virus,” Cllr Bell told the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter