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‘It is too early to celebrate’

Created on 05/05/2020 @ 12:48
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Council Leader, Councillor Rosemarie Harris, tells readers in her latest column that while we may be past the peak of the pandemic, there is still a long way to go...

"As I write this month’s column the county is still in the grip of Coronavirus. While there are signs that parts of the country may have passed their peak, it is too early to celebrate. We must maintain social distancing in Powys, continue to protect the NHS and save lives.

The county has seen a number of COVID19-related deaths over the last month and every one of these is a tragedy for a family, a community and our county as a whole.

Very sadly, the county council has lost one of its own employees to COVID-19, Sharon Scanlon of Brecon, who was a highly valued member of our adult social care team. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this difficult time.  The deaths we are experiencing across the county brings home the awful truth about this dreadful disease and emphasises the need for us all to do everything we can to stop the spread of Coronavirus.

The financial impact of the pandemic continues to be felt across the county, with business brought to a virtual standstill and devastating loss of income; it is clear the repercussions of COVID-19 will be felt for many years to come. The county council is not immune from the financial impact, and like others, our income has been hit hard. We estimate that the cost to the council is more than £3 million per month through lost income and increased costs as we respond to the outbreak. The council is current forecasting a £10 million deficit by the end of June and we are calling on Welsh Government for continued financial support.

We continue to work with businesses by distributing financial assistance. So far the Council’s Income & Awards Team have paid out nearly £40 million of grant assistance to around 4,000 Powys businesses and organisations through the Business Rates Grant Support Scheme.

To date only two other councils in Wales have helped more organisations than Powys with this funding, which given our size is a tremendous achievement. Most grant payments, around 95%, were processed within a few days; some did require additional work to verify information, but we are committed to passporting support to where it is need most as quickly as possible.

Our dedicated Covid-19 helpline for county businesses continues to receive a high volume of calls, with nearly 400 calls received by the middle of April.

It is good to see a number of Powys-based companies are helping provide critical business equipment and supplies in the fight against Coronavirus, particularly in the manufacture of much needed personal protective equipment - Hay on Wye company TS Henderson, a finalist in last year’s Powys Business Awards, making test equipment and oxygen supplies; Mangar Health Presteigne providing equipment for the Nightingale Field Hospital in London; and troubled clothing company Laura Ashley making hospital scrubs at their Newtown Texplan factory.

We have developed new ways of working during the pandemic, particularly in terms of remote working and community resourcefulness, and as we start to think about recovery we are determined to embed the good practice we have developed for the benefit of our residents, our environment and our staff.

This week we should be celebrating the 75th anniversary of VE Day, however with the current restrictions those celebrations will be muted. I hope that at some date in the future we will be able to mark that important date with appropriate style.

The weekend has seen a slowing in the rate of infection in Wales and we hope this continues, but for now we must follow national guidance and maintain our social-distancing discipline."

Stay safe and well

Councillor Rosemarie Harris

Leader Powys County Council

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