I wanted to update you on Lambeth council’s response to the coronavirus thus far, and the measures that are in place following Monday’s announcement by the UK Government.
Firstly I want to urge you to stick to the restrictions imposed by the UK Government on Monday evening. The message could not be more stark or more important – stay at home and save lives. These measures are essential to protecting our friends, family and neighbours as well as our NHS at this very difficult time. By following the official advice, you will play a vital part in the battle against the virus.
While we can all play our most important part in these challenging times by following the advice, the council is working incredibly hard to protect vulnerable people most at risk, support those impacted by the crisis and keep key services running. I want to pay tribute to our hard-working council staff, police, NHS staff and other public servants who are doing vital work in so many ways to help so many people. I don’t need a government definition to tell me that they have always been key workers – but they are long overdue recognition for their commitment to helping others and they have stepped up even more to do that in the last few weeks.
Protecting vulnerable people
The council’s number one priority is to support the over 4,000 most vulnerable residents in our borough. We are working very closely with our foodbanks, Lambeth Larder, Age UK and other organisations to ensure vulnerable residents have access to the supplies they need to stay safely at home. In only a week we have put in place a network which will shortly be called into action to deliver at a local level.
Today we are launching a helpline for vulnerable people to contact the council as part of our Community Hub which is the command centre for their protection and where food and medicine delivery, connection and distance support as well as intelligence and information will be coordinated.
I want to pay tribute to those who have already started this work in the community and have already helped many people who desperately needed support. Now, we need to harness the energy of our community to help our neighbours at this time of great need – please volunteer online at lambeth.gov.uk/volunteer to take part in this enormous community effort.
Supporting workers and businesses
Today, we have launched a major economic package to support workers and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We welcome the Government’s announcements, but have been lobbying to ensure that support is rolled out quickly and is extended to self-employed workers immediately.
This is a time of great anxiety for workers and businesses – and Lambeth council will do all in our power to help them through this.
Today we have announced Lambeth’s Local Economy Support Package which will include:
- Rent relief for voluntary and community sector and businesses that rent council properties and are most impacted by the crisis including hairdressers, cafes, restaurants, beauty salons and non-food retailers. This benefits over 220 local small businesses and community organisations.
- Grants to businesses – Government have announced grants of either £10,000 or £25,000 for businesses who receive Small Business Rate Relief or are in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors. From today we are paying these grants directly to businesses who are eligible, and we are doing this before receiving the funding from Government. There is no need to apply for this and those who are eligible will be contacted directly.
- Business Rates relief – the business rate relief support announced by Government is being applied to accounts automatically. This includes 100% business rate relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for 2020/21
- Freezing commercial waste charges for any pub, club or restaurant that requests it.
- We have established a Business Task Force with Lambeth’s 7 Business Improvement Districts, coordinating our response and working up additional proposals to support local businesses and support the eventual economic recovery effort
- Lobbying Government to support our self-employed residents, many of which work in the creative industries in Lambeth, with additional measures to alleviate financial hardship.
This is a package that will invest over £1.2 million in local businesses and voluntary groups, providing a lifeline to many in these difficult times and ensuring our thriving business and voluntary sectors can bounce back when this crisis recedes.
Lambeth council – on your side
The council is mobilising all its resources to deliver essential services. This has meant reducing some services in line with government advice (including closing our customer service centre, libraries and leisure centres) and redeploying staff to other areas. However, as well as the action I have set out, we are looking at all the services we offer and at what more we can do to help residents, as well as listening to feedback directly from you. As a result, we are:
- Expanding our Emergency Support Scheme for those at immediate risk of financial hardship, with an extra £500,000 for emergency financial support for Lambeth residents.
- Pausing all enforcement activity against people for council tax and rent arrears during the pandemic. It is vital you keep paying your council tax and rent if you can so you do not fall into debt but we do not wish to cause anxiety for people at this stressful time. Please contact us immediately if you have any problems with paying your council tax. We have already committed to not pursuing any evictions during this period as well.
- Expanding our support for vulnerable people who struggle to pay their council tax by increasing the scope and funding for our Council Tax Support Scheme.
- Offering council tax payment flexibility, for example switching direct debit payments so they run from June to March. Please contact the council tax team if you wish to discuss this further.
- We have invested additional money in our Crowdfunding platform to enable grants for local community organisations that are responding to the pandemic
- We are introducing free parking for NHS staff, social care staff and other key workers in the borough.
Taken together, I hope these actions reassure you that Lambeth council is on your side and is doing everything possible to support people through this time of national crisis.
This is a fast-moving situation, with constant discussions with our partners and local groups, emergency planning and changing government guidance several times a day. Please bear with us and do your part in this time of crisis. I am confident that Lambeth can pull together to see this out but it relies on us all playing our part.
Cllr Jack Hopkins
Leader of Lambeth Council