Latest Brief from the Chief: COVID-19 Update - 5 June
Fri, 05 Jun 2020

Dear colleagues,

As the Government starts to ease lockdown restrictions in relation to COVID-19, you will start to hear more about a 'new normal'.

Until a vaccine is developed for coronavirus we will all need to live with the virus and control its spread through a variety of measures, from social distancing and washing hands more often to staying at home as much as possible and adhering closely to the advice and guidance provided by the Government and public health officials.

Key to this 'new normal' is NHS Test and Trace and the development of local outbreak control plans.

I spoke about these in my Brief from the Chief column on 28 May, which can be read here.

Further to these steps, which will help the country begin re-opening from the lockdown, the council has established an Organisational Recovery Task Group, led by Darren Stevens, director of corporate resources, to start looking at how we can bring some staff back to offices in a safe way.

The task group's work, which will be overseen by the Everyone Matters board, chaired by myself, will look at arrangements for the 'interim normal' - so now until the end of the year - and designing the 'new normal' - which is will be a more long term look at how the council operates.

To work safely during the age of coronavirus, we must become COVID-19 secure.

This is a process outlined in five steps by the Government:

  1. carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment and share the results with the people who work here
  2. have cleaning, handwashing and hygiene procedures in line with guidance.
  3. take all reasonable steps to help people work from home
  4. take all reasonable steps to maintain a two metre distance in the workplace
  5. where people cannot be two metres apart, do everything practical to manage transmission risk.

All of these points have been considered when putting in place safe systems of work and many colleagues have been working in new ways throughout the pandemic, for example in streetscene services, schools and adult social care services.

We are now looking at safe systems of work that need to be brought in within our buildings before these are re-opened.

As well as being COVID-19 secure, we must consider a number of other issues, including:

  • social distancing at work
  • workstations
  • meetings
  • common areas
  • elected members
  • visitors
  • communications
  • cleaning the work place
  • personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • working arrangements
  • technology impact.

So for example, with regards to social distancing, we might need to stagger arrival and departure times at work to reduce congestion.

In terms of workstations, we must ensure that social distancing can be adhered to in offices so occupancy levels should not exceed 20-30%.

With regards to meetings we should all minimise the amount of face-to-face meetings we have and maximise the use of video conference tools, like Microsoft Teams.

Cleaning regimes will be reviewed and increased in frequency, where needed, in all council buildings.

Full details of our return to work plans will be communicated to staff in advance of any return to the office.

My main message at the moment is to continue working as you are until you are told differently.

It is also important to remember that, while some council services and sectors of the economy move into a new phase in terms of re-opening, some workers are still very much dealing with the pandemic, including our staff working in social care.

Some of our staff may not return to their normal roles for some time, but will continue to play an active role in our shielding arrangements.

I'd just like to pay special tribute to them for their continued hard work and dedication. What you are doing represents the very best of us and we cannot begin to put into words just how grateful we are.

Finally, I am so proud of what our council has continued to achieve during these challenging times in order to support our residents, businesses and communities.

You have all played your part in this and the feedback we have had from elected members, partner agencies and the public at large has been overwhelmingly positive.

So from me, CMT, SMT, the leader, cabinet and our elected members - Thank you!



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