Ian Bancroft – Chief Executive
Councillor Mark Pritchard – Leader of the Council
As the Chief Executive and Leader of Wrexham Council, we know that many of you will be feeling anxious about the unprecedented challenge the world is facing.
We share your anxiety. We know these are frightening and uncertain times for everyone, and it’s important we work together – as people, communities and organisations – to get past this.
As a council, we’re trying to balance the welfare and needs of our staff – so they can stay safe and continue to deliver public services – with the welfare and needs of our residents and the communities we serve.
We’ve put together the following information to help you understand what we’re doing to achieve this balance, and to reiterate the advice being shared by the UK Government and health services.
Please do everything you can to stay safe and help others.
Where do I find out about Covid-19 and what should I do about it?
Reliable sources of information
Latest information on the virus and what people should do about it is provided by:
- Daily TV statements by the Government (including by the Prime Minister)
- Daily official briefings from the Department of Health and Social Care at 2pm, and Public Health Wales at 3pm
As a council, we’re helping to keep the people of Wrexham informed by signposting to these official sources of information.
We’re doing this on our website and social media accounts, and by circulating advice (like this notice) to head teachers, care workers and key workers, as well as the wider public.
We’re doing this because it’s important that people receive a single, consistent message to avoid confusion.
It’s not appropriate for us to issue our own, separate advice, unless it relates specifically to council services and events in the county borough.
Delaying the spread – working together, keeping our distance
Based on the first 44,000 cases world-wide, 81% have proved to be mild, 14% severe, 5% critical and 1% fatal.
But experience in Italy, the rapidly growing numbers in the UK and the disproportionate impact on the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions means that the scale of impact will be significant.
The Government’s response has moved from ‘contain’ to ‘delay’ and people who develop a NEW persistent cough or high temperature are now being asked to self-isolate at home with their families for 14 days and to contact NHS111 only if their symptoms worsen.
The Government will shortly issue advice on longer term self-isolation for people over the age of 70, those with specific underlying health conditions and pregnant women.
The Government also intends to enact emergency legislation before the end of March to relax certain statutory requirements (e.g. minimum staffing numbers in health and social care settings, restrictions on night-time supermarket deliveries) and to make Government guidance legally enforceable (e.g. self-isolation and preventing public assembly/events).
Impact on schools
From today, the Government is encouraging people to undertake ‘social distancing’ by working from home and not travelling wherever possible, and not attending large public gatherings, pubs, restaurants etc.
If the virus progresses rapidly we can expect these measures to include the closure of schools and colleges.
The Government hasn’t taken this approach yet. However, due to staff having to self-isolate, it’s possible that some schools in the county borough may have to take the decision to reduce the amount of provision they offer.
Impact on council non-critical meetings
At Wrexham Council, we’ve taken the decision to suspend all non-critical council meetings. The meeting of Council next Wednesday, March 25 and the next Planning Committee meeting on Monday, April 6 at this stage, are still planned to go ahead.
Can I still access Wrexham Council services?
The Council is responsible for a wide range of services provided by around 6,000 staff. For now, we’re continuing to provide all of these services, but with some staff working from home.
Those who are not working from home are being advised to undertake ‘social distancing’ measures.
The Council’s senior leadership team is working from council offices to provide visible leadership.
Advice is also being issued to staff on how to work from home, work in social care settings, report sickness/self-isolation etc.
The virus has the potential seriously to impact on the provision of council services – mainly by reducing the number of council, partner and supplier staff available for work (because they are directly affected by the virus, supporting others who are affected, or cannot get to work).
Such impacts are likely to last for months rather than weeks.
Council services have contingency plans in place to deal with the impact of a variety of major events, including pandemics, and these have been activated.
Particular emphasis is being placed on ensuring that social care, refuse collection, education and housing are prepared for a reduction in staff.
If we decide to close community buildings, like libraries and resource centres, we will publicise this in the press and on our website.
If the effects of the virus become severe, our overall ‘Business Continuity Plan’ identifies around 50 critical functions that we will prioritise (including social care and refuse collection).
Clearly, reducing council services to this emergency level will only be taken based on national scientific/medical advice and Government instruction.
This will mean that some other services and functions, such as running events or deciding planning applications, may be performed on a limited basis or not at all for the duration of what will then be an emergency.
If we have to take this decision, we will issue further statements and information on our website and in the press etc. We ask you to recognise that Covid-19 presents a major challenge to every council and to be patient.
How can I help vulnerable people in my community?
Other than contacting the Council, as described above, you can:
Look after you neighbours
Many of you will have neighbours who are elderly, known by you to have underlying health conditions or are otherwise self-isolating.
Please give them a call or put a note through their letterbox offering them your support.
Volunteer to support your community
In many communities, community councils, Neighbourhood Watch groups and voluntary organisations have leafleted their residents asking if they are self-isolating and whether they need help with food deliveries, pet walking, befriending etc.
They’ve created WhatsApp, Facebook and email groups to assist with this and used a network of volunteers to ‘buddy’ the people who ask for help and helped the most vulnerable amongst them to contact NHS111 and/or local health and council services.
Another example reported in the media is the ‘community postcard’ approach.
In Wrexham, voluntary groups and organisations are building a bank of volunteers to help with Covid-19. For example, AVOW is signposting people to a specific national website where volunteers can register to help their communities.
Support your community council
Because of their local knowledge and sources of intelligence and their community leadership, community councils have an important role to play in supporting the most vulnerable in their communities.
For example, they can signpost them and their relatives to the Council’s website and published numbers to access council services, and to Public Health Wales and NHS111 for medical advice.
Most community councils in Wrexham can be contacted through their websites and many of the community councillors are also county borough councillors.
This is a rapidly changing situation so we will issue further public notices on our website, in the press and on social media as and when appropriate.