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Eden District Council implements COVID-19 action plan, administers Government support for local businesses and helps co-ordinate local community response.

Eden District Council has put into action its plan to help delay the spread of coronavirus, and manage the potential impacts of the effects of the virus on staff, services and members of the public. The measures reflect the advice provided by the government and Public Health England who are co-ordinating efforts to tackle the spread of the virus.

In order to protect staff and members of the public the council is making changes to the way it interacts with partners and customers. They have already postponed all external events organised by the council and recommended that any external staff meetings, or training be conducted remotely, or postponed if this is not possible. The council is also implementing changes to its working practices, including providing support for council officers so that they can work from home where possible.

However, the council now feels it needs to go further and has taken the decision to temporarily close the Mansion House contact centre, with immediate effect, in order to reduce and manage customer contacts through the Town Hall. Customers are encouraged to avoid visiting the contact centre in the Town Hall for all but essential enquiries and are asked to instead make use of the pay, apply and report functions of the council website, www.eden.gov.uk, or to use the customer service telephone number, 01768 817817, if they don’t have access to the internet, or need to speak with a customer service advisor.

Customers can also use the council website to check when their next waste collection is due, or to report a missed collection. It’s also possible to check planning applications in the local area and submit a new application online. Customers can also check their eligibility for housing and council tax benefits online. The easiest way for customers to pay their council tax bill is by setting up a direct debit and information on how to do this can also be found on the council’s website. It’s also possible to pay online using a debit card. Payments can also be made by calling the council’s contact centre.

Eden District Council leader, Virginia Taylor, said: “The sustainability of Eden District Council’s working and workforce are being tirelessly and ably secured by Chief Executive, Rose Rouse and her responsible and talented team of officers, keeping staff safe and services running. The services you expect from your district council will continue as much as is allowed under government and NHS guidance.

“Right now, resilience planning and action is going on nationally, in Cumbria, in Eden, and for many of you in your parish to make it easier for everyone to look after everyone safely and efficiently. We have to keep the Chancellor of the Exchequer to his repeated promise, ‘we will do whatever it takes’ and get the money we, you, your business, need. Councillors and officers at Eden District Council will do all we can to help everyone in Eden get safely through the weeks and months ahead. All shall be well.”

The council is constantly reviewing the situation to ensure it is doing everything it can to protect its customers, employees and Members from the risk of infection, as well as manage the impact of the effects of the virus on its staff and services.

In addition to the council’s operational actions, the Government has announced guidance and funding for businesses in the light of the outbreak of Covid-19. It includes the following business rate holidays and grants, for which the Eden District Council will be the administering body:

  • A 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England.
  • Small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief.
  • Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses with property with a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.

The Council hasn’t sent this year’s business rate bills yet and will now delay that process so that the new business rates holiday can be incorporated before any bills are sent. The council expects to receive detailed guidance on qualifying businesses from the Government on 20 March. Once received, the council will apply the holiday and send out bills as a priority. In order that this can be done as quickly as possible businesses are asked to wait until they receive their bills before making enquiries regarding eligibility.

Government guidance for grant funding is expected in early April. The council will contact all qualifying businesses once it receives the guidance and it will administer grants as a priority. Businesses DO NOT need to apply for their grants, they will be processed automatically based on their receipt of reliefs or rateable value.

Cllr. Mary Robinson, who is part of the Business and Economic Response and Recovery Group, and chair of the Rural Sub Group, which is working across the county to support all Cumbrian businesses said: “The council will have a key role throughout the current situation in supporting businesses across the District through signposting key information to help businesses overcome both their present and future challenges.

“As Central Government advice is provided, Eden District Council, alongside its partners will communicate key information to businesses and asks that the information is circulated widely across all local networks people may have. We have a huge range of varied businesses across a wide range of sectors and we will do all we can to support them through these hard times and we will be extremely vocal to Central Government in getting across the pressing and future needs of our Eden Businesses.”

Cllr. Mark Rudhall, Development portfolio holder for Eden District Council, said: "I am pleased to see the Chancellor takes the devastating effect this virus will have on businesses seriously. The £330bn package of loans should help businesses in Eden, especially those in the retail, leisure & hospitality sector. Along with keeping people safe, economic sustainability and stability is a main priority of ours and Eden businesses need to be protected. We will do all we can to make sure the Chancellor keeps his promise to you.”

Eden District Council is aware that there is widespread community and voluntary sector support for the response to Covid-19 across the district. This has a number of layers; there are many informal support mechanisms, including neighbourhood WhatsApp groups and community Facebook groups emerging, alongside a commitment from existing community emergency planning groups, local churches and faith groups and formal voluntary sector organisations to work with and support the statutory sector response.

These layers all have an important role to play; if most people are able to get informal support from their neighbours, friends and family, it will reduce the number of people who require formal support from community and voluntary sector organisations or statutory sector services. All organisations are likely to find it very challenging to maintain their normal services, or respond to an increase in demand, as staff and volunteers self-isolate, become ill, or need to remain at home to care for children.

This means that ways to support and link the different layers of the community response need to be found; this poses some significant challenges, but there was a similar informal community response following the flooding caused by Storm Desmond in December 2015, and so there is residual experience within the Eden area.

Cumbria County Council is forming multi-agency coordination groups in order to respond, however, most of the co-ordination of community response will take place more locally, in the six district-level Local Community Resilience Groups that are also being established. These are being led by Cumbria County Council’s Area Managers and will include a wide range of local community, voluntary and statutory sector organisations.

If you are aware of new or existing groups within Eden that would like to get involved in the response to Covid-19, you should ask them to send an email to Eden.AreaSupport@cumbria.gov.uk

The council is also aware that there are individuals who want to volunteer, but aren’t sure where or how to do so, and it’s hoped that a Support Cumbria website will launch soon to allow them to register their interest online, so that they can then be linked to local groups.