Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Briefing for Breckland Council elected members

1. Recent Government advice/action

Lockdown easing – Further changes to lockdown measures in England have been announced to enable people to see more of their friends and family, help businesses get back on their feet and get people back in their jobs.

From Saturday 4 July, pubs, restaurants and hairdressers will be able to reopen, providing they adhere to COVID Secure guidelines. From the same date, two households will be able to meet up in any setting with social distancing measures, and people will be able to enjoy staycations in England with the reopening of accommodation sites.

Some leisure facilities and tourist attractions may also reopen, if they can do so safely – this includes outdoor gyms and playgrounds, cinemas, museums, galleries, theme parks and arcades, as well as libraries, social clubs, places of worship and community centres.

Following a review, the Government has also said that where it is not possible to stay two metres apart, guidance will allow people to keep a social distance of ‘one metre plus’. This means staying one metre apart, plus mitigations which reduce the risk of transmission.

To reduce the risk of transmission, ‘close proximity’ venues such as nightclubs, soft-play areas, indoor gyms, swimming pools, water parks, bowling alleys and spas will need to remain closed for the time being.

The latest government and Health information and advice can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus.

Other Government updates:
Tourism – Guidance on Tourism and the Visitor Economy, published today, will help to get the tourism sector back up and running so the public can safely take domestic holidays and visit attractions on days out

Housing – Interim housing for thousands of rough sleepers taken off the streets during the pandemic is to be provided. The additional £105 million will be used to support rough sleepers and those at risk of homelessness into tenancies of their own, including through help with deposits for accommodation, and securing thousands of alternative rooms already available and ready for use, such as student accommodation.

Shielding – Millions of people shielding from coronavirus (COVID-19) have been advised they will soon be able to spend more time outside their homes. From Monday 6 July, those shielding from Coronavirus will be able to gather in groups of up to 6 people outdoors and form a ‘support bubble’ with another household. From Saturday 1 August, the guidance will then be relaxed so clinically extremely vulnerable people will no longer be advised to shield, but support will remain available from NHS volunteers and local councils. (See section 3B of this briefing for more detail).

Construction – New measures to help the construction industry boost building and a return to work safely will be introduced this week. Planning permission deadlines will be extended, planning appeals will be sped up and builders will be allowed more flexible working hours following agreement with their local council.


Medicine – A weekly Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing model using a new ‘no-swab’ saliva test is to be piloted in Southampton from this week (22 June). Participants will be able to complete coronavirus tests at home by putting their saliva into a sample pot to be tested for current infections of the virus

Criminal justice – The UK has launched a landmark draft ‘Murad Code’ to support survivors of conflict-related sexual violence, as the COVID-19 pandemic increases suffering.

Business support – Measures have been extended to prevent struggling companies from eviction over the summer. The extension, until the end of September, comes alongside further support to help local businesses plan for economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.

Alert level – The Chief Medical Officers for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland agreed with the recommendation of the Joint Biodiversity Centre to move the UK’s Covid-19 alert level from Level 4 (epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially) to Level 3 (epidemic is in general circulation).

Test and trace – The Government has announced the next phase of development in building an app that supports the end-to-end NHS Test and Trace service, learning from the challenges identified during initial field testing and a trial on the Isle of Wight.

2. Supporting businesses and employees

A) UPDATED: Business grants
The Council is responsible for administering, at a local level, some of the Government’s national business support schemes. As of 23 June, we have paid out a total of £26.7 million through a total of 2,345 business grants.

We are still accepting requests from any eligible business, and they can submit their application by online form. To date we have awarded almost 90% of the monies allocated. Rate Relief continues to be applied automatically for eligible businesses.

B) UPDATED: Rate Relief for Small Business Rates Relief (Retail / Hospitality / Leisure / Nursery): A total of 840 businesses in the eligible sectors have been awarded a further £14 million in rate relief. Businesses do not need to apply, we will apply relief automatically.

C) UPDATED: Local Authority Discretionary Grants Fund
Breckland Council has been given additional Government funding of almost £1.5m to help us address the needs of businesses which were not eligible under the original COVID-19 grant schemes. To manage the fund, we opened an application window from 1 June to 23 June, with grants available of between £2,000 and £10,000.

We have been paying ‘Category A’ businesses (B&B, those in shared spaces and regular market trades) on a rolling basis, and so far have supported 42 businesses with almost £250,000 of support. To date, we have had over 100 further applications, largely through businesses who’ve suffered hardship as a result of Covid-19 but haven’t been able to access wider support, and will be making awards to them as quickly as possible over the coming days.

F) UPDATED: ‘Confidence’ campaign: ensuring local High Streets are safe and vibrant
Our High Streets have now re-opened, supported by our campaign around confidence to help the public and business owners feel assured about shopping locally. We are working with partners to achieve sensitive alterations to the townscapes, to make these spaces as useable as possible and give people the confidence to go about their day-to-day lives. This will also give us a chance to make changes which will draw people back to town centres as a destination of choice to carry out shopping, leisure and business activities.

With hospitality businesses set to re-open from 4 July, the next phase of our activity is targeted around supporting them to reopen successfully and safely. To achieve this we are helping businesses with access to extra tables and chairs free of charge, and helping provide additional space outside to serve a greater number of customers. We are also offering support and guidance on serving customers under the new regulations, including offering an online course free of charge, and free access to social distancing signage. Our High Street Confidence campaign will continue to help encourage people to eat and drink in Breckland with confidence.

If you have any questions or suggestions about your local area, you can get in touch with the liaison team via regeneration@breckland.gov.uk

3. Community support

A) UPDATED: Housing and homelessness support
The Housing Team have, to date, worked hard to successfully accommodate all rough sleepers who were known to us in the district since lockdown began. We are currently supporting and providing accommodation for 22 rough sleepers and the team are actively engaging with any new rough sleepers who have moved into the district in recent weeks.

Temporary accommodation has also been secured for a number of households during lockdown and we are currently supporting and accommodating a further 51 households otherwise at risk of homelessness. This number will – and has – reduced over time as the team works with Registered Social Landlords and Private Sector Landlords to find long term housing solutions for this group.

B) UPDATED: Breckland Community Hub
Breckland’s Community Support Hub continues to prioritise 3186 of the Extremely Vulnerable ‘shielding’ residents who have said that they do not have access to essential items, such as food and medicine, while also offering welfare checks to those who are ‘managing for now’ with the help of friends and family. By the end of this week, we will have delivered 620 food parcels through our district hub at Dereham Leisure Centre to this priority group because they did not have their own access to food.

C) NEW: Shielded update
As virus infection rates continue to fall, the Government is relaxing its advisory guidance, in two stages, for the 2.2 million clinically extremely vulnerable people who have been shielding in England.

From Monday 6 July:

*Those shielding can spend time outdoors in a group of up to six people (including those outside of their household). Extra care should be taken to minimise contact with others by maintaining social distancing. This can be in a public outdoor space, or in a private garden or uncovered yard or terrace.

*Those who are shielding and either live alone or are single parents with dependent children will also be able to create a ‘support bubble’ with one other household of any size, following the same rules already in place for the wider population. All those in a support bubble can spend time together inside each other’s homes, including overnight.

*The Government’s support package for those shielding will be extended to the end of July – this includes the delivery of food and medicines. Beyond this date, people will still be able to retain their priority supermarket delivery slots and support will remain available from NHS volunteers and local councils, where needed.

From Saturday 1 August, advice to those shielding will be further relaxed:

*While this group of clinically extremely vulnerable people should continue to follow strict social distancing measures, they will be able to participate in more activities such as visiting shops and places of worship.

*Those who need to work and cannot do so from home will be able to return to work as long as their workplace is COVID secure, adhering to the guidance available.

You can read more about the changes to the guidance for clinically extremely vulnerable people here.

D) UPDATE: Breckland Council Hardship Fund
Breckland Council continues to support residents through its Hardship Fund scheme, providing short-term financial support to residents facing financial difficulties as a result of Covid-19.

With 24 households having received support so far, the scheme is open to all households experiencing extreme hardship within the district. To apply, the household must be in severe crisis as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and must have attempted to mitigate their position and use other sources of financial assistance.

Referrals need to be made through ward members – it is not intended for residents to apply directly for the grants. If you are aware of someone within your ward who you feel that may be eligible, please email your request through to: communitysupport@breckland.gov.uk

4. Breckland service updates

Critical services, such as Housing, Waste, Customer Services and Public Protection, all continue to operate, albeit in some cases, this is being managed in a more flexible way (see below for details). We continue to keep all services under review, in light of the latest Government guidance and our staff resource, with the latest updates available on our website here.

*The Council’s first virtual Planning meeting successfully took place on 22 June, with up to 55 viewers at any one time throughout the meeting. The next virtual committee meetings to take place will be Cabinet on 13 July, followed by Planning on 14 July and Overview and Scrutiny Commission on 16 July.

*Public Protection are gearing up to support the re-opening of the Hospitality sector as part of the High Street Confidence campaign. As part of this, they are preparing guidance for the sector, to be added to the Council’s website. In the meantime, officers are on hand to offer businesses support or answer any queries they may have about re-opening safely.

*Council decisions have been made relating to: an ‘Asset of Community Value’ nomination for the Watton by Verve (formerly the Hare and Barrel); contractual relief payments to the Council’s leisure provider Parkwood Leisure; and a CVA (Company Voluntary Arrangement) proposal for one of the Council’s commercial property tenants.

You can read more here: https://democracy.breckland.gov.uk/mgDelegatedDecisions.aspx

*The Council’s Enforcement team continues to take a tough line on littering and flytipping, successfully fining three workers for littering on a coffee break in Swaffham, and issuing a fixed penalty notice to a flytipper spotted in Beetley.

*To celebrate Armed Forces Day on Saturday (27 June) the Council will be raising a flag at its offices, as well as calling on Breckland residents to take a selfie of themselves saluting, to share on social media using the hashtags #ArmedForcesDay2020 and #OurBreckland.

Breckland Council, 24.06.2020

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