Agenda item

The Impact of Covid-19 on Rushcliffe Borough Council - Internal Focus

The report of the Director – Neighbourhoods is attached.


The Director – Neighbourhoods presented his report, which focused on the impact of Covid-19 on the Council internally and explained that this topic had been split into two parts to enable meaningful scrutiny, with the second report discussing the external impact to follow in May 2022. The report outlined how Rushcliffe Borough Council had responded and reacted to Covid-19, and how the Council had activated its emergency plan to respond to the pandemic. The report also outlined events which had occurred just prior to the pandemic, including serious flooding in parts of the Borough, which had been dealt with. The second part of this report detailed the effect of Covid-19 on the Council’s staff, services, and projects and it concluded with a reflection on some of the lessons learnt with a view to improving similar responses in the future.


The Group questioned whether there would be any alterations to the Council’s emergency plan and the Director – Neighbourhoods explained that it was a generic document, designed to be deployed when an emergency situation arose and no changes were anticipated for the current plan, as it was still fit for purpose.


The Group referred to paragraph 4.18 of the report and indicated that the whole of the Borough was affected by broadband and mobile connectivity issues, not just officers. The Director – Neighbourhoods indicated that the Council was in a good position with many officers already working from home prior to the pandemic.  It was noted that there were 1.8% of houses within the Borough without broadband and that despite vouchers being made available from Nottinghamshire County Council, there were still issues and both the suppliers and the County Council should be encouraged to ensure that no one was without broadband or mobile phone connectivity.


The Director- Neighbourhoods reminded the Group of a recent Communities Scrutiny Group meeting, when the County Council had given an excellent presentation on the broadband roll out programme and future phases and suggested that if the topic was to be added as a scrutiny matrix, then the County Council should be involved.


The Director – Neighbourhoods explained how the Council had remained connected with its employees by encouraging staff to work from the Arena or the Contact Centre once or twice a week and it was hoped that this would help to attract and retain talent. Councillors recognised that officers were also able to remain connected with events such as the Red Umbrella sessions and virtual coffee mornings for home schooling parents. Based on the extreme hard work and adaptivity of the Council, Councillors asked questions about financial recognition and how it would be achieved. The Director – Neighbourhoods advised the Group that there had been some renumeration for those who have taken on extra roles, responsibilities, and duties during the pandemic but that it was not always possible to recognise staff financially. The Group was informed that there were different reward systems in place such as staff compliments in the Council’s weekly newsletter, and that an area at Eastcroft Depot was set aside to share positive customer feedback with staff.


The Group raised questions regarding paragraph 4.44 in the report and queried what had happened next to those who had been re-homed during the pandemic. The Director – Neighbourhoods stated that support from the Government, with the ‘Everybody In’ grant, had enabled the Council to offer bed and breakfast accommodation to those in need. Afterwards, those people had been provided with different types of accommodation and supported by Framework and the Strategic Housing Team at the Council. It was also highlighted, that despite numbers of homeless people within the Borough being very low, it was still an ongoing challenge to ensure that they received the care and support they needed.


Thanks were given to ICT for helping Councillors with virtual meetings and the use of Microsoft Teams and Zoom.


Reference was made to paragraph 4.7 of the report regarding the flooding in February 2020, and the Group stated that it was pleased that this had been recognised.


The Group questioned whether it would be possible to monitor the well-being of staff with high workloads and the Director – Neighbourhoods agreed that staff well-being should continue to be monitored.


The Group asked questions about the levels of PPE during the pandemic and the Director – Neighbourhoods explained that the Council was in a fortunate position with regards to  PPE during the pandemic, and that the Rushcliffe Borough Council did not require as much as other organisations.


The Group expressed its concerns that if employees worked from home too often, they might become isolated, and the Group was advised that office-based working was still important, and officers were now back working in their respective offices an average of two days per week.


The Group asked questions regarding how the pandemic had impacted on household waste and the shortage of drivers and  the Director – Neighbourhoods explained that the Borough had seen a significant increase in waste tonnage, which had led to more frequent visits to disposal points, making working days longer. The additional pressures faced due to the national shortage of HGV drivers was also noted. The Director – Neighbourhoods informed the Group that the Council was providing financial incentives to the Council’s HGV drivers and was currently training three loaders to gain their HGV licenses, which was being fully funded by the Council.


The Group referred to the issues of fly tipping and littering in the Borough during the pandemic and the Director – Neighbourhoods explained how the introduction of WISE for enforcement had had a positive outcome and that the Borough had seen a drop in fly tipping incidents in the last year. It was explained that communication campaigns had helped to reduce the statistic by providing residents with critical messages around how waste should be disposed of. The Group noted that the pandemic had caused an increase in littering during certain periods, including when restrictions had been reduced, and parks had been being heavily used and there had also been issues concerning the disposal of PPE by the public.


The Group asked questions regarding the hygiene regime at the Rushcliffe offices and the depot and asked if those measures would be maintained going forward to reduce the impact of colds and flu in general. The Director – Neighbourhoods agreed that this and other messages such as hand washing had a huge impact, and the regular cleaning of vehicles and touch points would be something the Council would continue with.


In conclusion, the Group gave its thanks to all staff for their work during the Covid-19 Pandemic and thanked officers for producing such a comprehensive reflective report. It was noted that this was an historic document, which people would look back on in years to come as a first-hand account of what had happened during the pandemic. The Councillors asked whether there had been a chance to share experiences from the Local Resilience Forum (LRF) and the Director – Neighbourhoods advised that there had already been some discussions and it was agreed by the Group that Councillors would thank staff in the next issue of Staff Matters.


The Director – Neighbourhoods advised that the second report would focus on external factors such as residents, businesses, grants and the voluntary sector.


The Chairman suggested that given the significant issues covered in this report, it would be worthwhile to recirculate it to all Councillors, to allow them to comment and feedback to this Group.


It was RESOLVED that:


a)     a copy of the report be recirculated to all Councillors, for further consideration and comment; and


b)     the thanks expressed by Councillors be included in the next edition of Staff Matters.

Supporting documents: