The Leader presented the report to Cabinet.
The Report provided an update on the Council’s and its partners’ response to the Covid-19 crisis supporting the City (Residents and Businesses) to comply with the current restrictions and progress in the Council’s Strategic Recovery Aims and Corporate Plan.
More up to date information was available from Public Health Wales Covid-19 Dashboardson the latest figures and also Welsh Government on restriction changes.
Since the last Cabinet meeting in September, case rates for Newport and other areas in Wales remained high as restrictions were eased allowing people to socialise more and undertake more normal routines.
The Leader reminded those present that it remained important for people to continue to adhere to the Welsh Government guidelines wearing face coverings, maintaining social distancing (where possible) and being aware of people whether that was friends or family, that there are still vulnerable people who are susceptible to the virus.
Hospitals in Newport and Gwent were continuing to see people being treated for Covid and while the numbers were not as high as those experienced during the last winter, they remained significant enough to impact on other NHS services. To reiterate the Welsh Government’s position, additional restrictions could be reimposed if the NHS and new variants of concern emerged.
For people over 50 and the most vulnerable, boosters were now being offered as well as the seasonal flu jab.
12 to 15 year olds were being offered to receive the vaccination.
It remained very important for residents to take up these offers and for those still unvaccinated in the other age groups, they too could still receive the vaccine.
Communities were also facing wider economic impacts as the economy was recovering from Covid. As highlighted in the Brexit report to this Cabinet, this winter period would be seeing increasing household costs due to food and energy prices increasing as well as supply issues. This would impact many low income households in Newport and place further demand on Council and third sector support.
Newport City Council Update
Front line services continued to be delivered and the Council continued to follow the Welsh Government’s advice for staff (where they could) to continue to work from home.
This equally applied to Members and access to the Civic Centre and democratic functions would continue to be undertaken virtually.
The Council has also been finalising the technology requirements and the necessary protocols for hybrid meetings to take place in the Council.
The Council’s New Normal report would be reporting back to this Cabinet in November regarding the policy changes, building utilisation along with the associated benefits, risks and impacts.
Schools returned in September and the rate of attendance was lower than anticipated due to positive covid cases, asymptomatic pupils kept at home and parents not sending pupils into school due to Covid-19
All Community Hub and libraries were open and available for people to access services, training and other council services.
Newport Council launched £300,000 Newport Business Fund for new and emerging start-up businesses to grow.
The Council’s regulatory teams continued to ensure business premises are complying with covid restrictions.
The Council’s trading standards team continued to deliver enforcement work to ensure businesses were not delivering underage sales.
The Council was making preparations to launch its next participatory budget to community groups to support the Covid recovery of the City.
The Leader reiterated the importance of adhering to the Welsh Government guidance, encouraging people from all communities to take up the vaccine.
Further updates on the Council’s progress would be provided next month.
Comments from Cabinet Members
· Councillor Davies referred to the rise in numbers of cases since the return to school and that Newport was at amber level to ensure that children stayed safe and to sustain measures such as staggered start/leave times, break and movement in corridors being one way to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Councillor Davies was delighted that there was a vaccination programme in place for 12-15 year olds and it was vital that appointments for vaccines were taken up to help with learning. Councillor Davies was also receiving twice weekly briefings with officers on infection and attendance levels within schools. We could not have attendance falling and there was a high level of anxiety with parents however with vaccinations being undertaken anxiety levels should reduce. Nonattendance other than for covid reasons was also being closely monitored and children were entitled to the best opportunity in terms of education and this would happen if they attended school.
· Deputy Leader referred to supply issues and front-line staff who did not have safety of working from home. The Deputy Leader also mentioned fuel shortage and lack of HGV drivers highlighting that Newport City Council was not immune from this and that planning was put in place swiftly by the Council to address this and therefore thanked staff for their hard work.
· Councillor Harvey raised her concern in light of the recent cut in Universal Credit and the inequalities this would lead to in young children regarding poverty and food shortage as well as the imminent price hike in fuel as winter approached. There was a potential dilemma being faced by struggling families on whether to feed the family or fuel their homes.
· Councillor Truman stated that the lifting of restrictions meant Enforcement staff were working closely with business owners of retail and licensed premises, giving advice and guidance as well as helping them with risk assessments.
· Councillor Cockeram supported Councillor Harvey’s comments and highlighted that every service area was directly impacted by covid and across Gwent there were 540 places in care and residential homes. This was because of covid restrictions and this was putting pressure on hospital discharge and the council providing domiciliary care packages. There was however a change for the positive with individual care home managers making decisions on filling these spaces.
The Leader advised that it was essential to keep this item on the Cabinet Agenda considering the comments made by Cabinet Members.
Cabinet noted the progress being made to date and the risks that were still faced by the Council and the city.