Yesterday, along with other local MPs and by telephone, I was briefed by the Council Leader, Chief Executive and appropriate Directors of Bromley Council about what they are doing to help residents during the Coronavirus emergency. This briefing now takes place weekly at 11 am on Mondays. Essentially, we were updated on 4 subject areas:
• Testing and Contact Testing for Coronavirus.
• Waste and Environmental Services.
• Shielding and Volunteering.
• Financial Support for Local Businesses.
First, we started with a report on Coronavirus Testing and Contact Testing. For this we were briefed by Nada Lemic, Director of Public Health. She said that now a lot of testing for the presence of Coronavirus is happening locally. I understand there are three differing ways this is being achieved:
• Testing is now routinely taking place of all NHS and Care employees and also some other key workers as well. People over 65 years of age with Coronavirus symptoms are being tested too. This seems to be going relatively well.
• Testing is now being aimed at all forty-six Care homes within the Borough of Bromley, especially those in which there have been more than one case of Coronavirus. In addition, and superimposed on this, Public Health England is starting the trial testing of everyone resident in or who works in all Care homes locally; a double whammy so that nobody is missed hopefully.
• Testing is also starting of everyone who may have been in contact with a Coronavirus victim (so-called Contact Testing). I gather we are a bit of an experimental borough for this. It is again being led by Public Health England along the lines of an already on-going trial on the Isle of Wight. This trial has been widely reported in the media.
May I put out a warning here though? All this testing does is inform us if someone is suffering from Coronavirus at that moment. It does not show if the virus has come and gone; neither does it show if a person is immune to the germ.
In my post on Saturday I mentioned the Army run Coronavirus Pop-up Centre that was located in Norman Park last Friday-Saturday. It was only there for two days and it goes around London as directed from a headquarters somewhere near Woolwich. It is likely to return again – depending on demand. I was told that 205 people were tested there on Friday. The feeling was that its use was heavier on Saturday but the Council doesn’t know yet how many people went through there then.
Secondly, we were briefed about Waste and Environmental Services by Colin Brand, Director of Environment and Public Protection. Here there was some good news:
• Waste collections are now back to normal.
• The two recycling sites at Waldo Road and Churchfield Road are open again. However, residents must book a date and time slot when they can go there. As people can imagine such slots are going quickly. Constituents need to reserve their date/time via the Bromley Council website. Yesterday I applied at 11:45 am and was able to get myself a slot a week hence, at 09:45 am on next Monday 11th May. As I have just said there is a lot of demand at the moment.
• Garden waste collection sites have been re-established in the Borough in what are the usual places.
By the way going by car to get rid of waste does not offend the Government guidelines on staying at home. The Police are aware of this too.
Thirdly, we heard about local Shielding and Volunteering from Kim Carey, Director of Adult Services. We were told that 922 very vulnerable people have now been directly matched with 840 local volunteers who look after them by visiting frequently and helping as necessary. There are actually 4,878 local people on the Government’s Very Vulnerable List with 1,769 of these people needing food or medication delivered. By the way many people on the Government’s Very Vulnerable List have told Bromley that they are happy to look after themselves. Apparently, some did not realise they had been ‘pinged’ by their doctors!
Ms Carey also told us that overall, within her responsibility things were going pretty well and she mentioned that she did have enough excess capacity within the Care system. That is good news too.
Finally, we were briefed on Financial Support for Local Businesses by Pete Turner, Director of Finance. At this point may I remind local businesses, that are looking for help, to ensure they do so via the Bromley Council website under the Home Page tab of COVID-19 Business Services. I say this because Mr Turner said that he knows there are still some 500 local businesses yet to make contact with his Department.
We were told that Bromley has now paid out £32 million in COVID-19 support for local businesses. In addition, I gather additional funding from Central Government is being made available to support firms whose rates are disguised within rents to places like business centres. By the way, market traders, leisure and hospitality companies and owners of B&B’s are also eligible for support.
I may not have picked up all the nitty gritty here but I suggest anyone in any doubts about their situation should contact the Finance Department at Bromley Council. From Mr Turner’s briefing I gather they are now acting (sending the money) within 2 days of being approached which is very good.
Perhaps I must end by again expressing my thanks to the way Bromley Council is tackling this incredibly unique and very challenging Coronavirus situation. Our Council is doing its very best to serve us and I am very glad that I live here.