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England's 10,000 local councils step up during coronavirus crisis

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Local (parish and town) councils across England are galvanising their staff and volunteers to take action and look after the most vulnerable in their communities during the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the country being in lockdown, local councils are stepping up to coordinate emergency action plans which include support groups, buddy schemes and the collecting and delivering of shopping and medication. Others have donated funds and food to their local food bank. Some are putting vulnerable and self-isolating residents in touch with businesses delivering food. Many are collaborating with other local councils, principal authorities and third sector organisations – to ensure a coordinated effort to help as many people as possible.

Local councils, as the first tier of local government, are closest to their communities and their coordinated efforts are a crucial contribution to the national effort to keep on top of the pandemic.

This show of leadership can be seen through many instances of great work, such as:

  • Cottenham Parish Council, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, organised 140 volunteers who are performing tasks such as shopping, collecting prescriptions and making friendly phone calls. Through the General Power of Competence, the council is using its website, which has been modified to become a pre-payment shopping system, in conjunction with the local Co-op store, to allow volunteers to multi-buy for residents. For elderly residents unable to use that system, the council is using a Monzo card which can be used by the volunteers to pay for the shopping directly.
  • Yate Town Council, Avon, is working with representatives of churches, Neighbourhood Watch groups and a Facebook group followed by 2,500 residents wishing to assist. It awarded the local food bank an emergency grant of £4,000, donated food from the closure of cafés, 750 Easter eggs and organised a virtual Easter competition. It has also given £4,500 to aid community groups and will provide activities and support to home educators.
  • Midhurst Town Council, Sussex, helped set up a volunteer group, Midhurst Angels, which is putting businesses, charitable societies, community groups and residents in touch with each other. It is coordinating the local café, the greengrocers, the butcher and other companies which have all offered to deliver food. It is also ensuring volunteers have been DBS checked and are First Aid trained.

These are just a few of the many inspiring examples the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has gathered since the lockdown was announced. For more, read the full Coronavirus case studies publication.

Sue Baxter, chairman of NALC, said: “We are truly in unprecedented and worrying times. This portfolio of case studies shows that our local councils have a significant leadership role to play in their communities – ensuring that their vulnerable residents can access the much-needed support they need.”

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