The impact of the Covid-19 virus has had a significant effect on how council services have operated throughout the last five months. The council's Recovery and Renewal Plan sets out the measures the council will implement to get all services on the road to recovery and in line with national guidance.
Whilst some services have been temporarily withdrawn or reduced to comply with physical distancing guidelines, the majority of the council's essential services have continued to operate with staff finding new ways to work and communicate, and to support our communities.
Many services continued to deliver essential services, such as key worker hubs for children, social care, waste services and emergency housing repairs.
Council Services have been reviewing current service delivery to determine the timing of reintroduction of service activities, but at the same time have taken the opportunity to reassess the service and customer experience of the last five months in order to determine if the service will be reset to the pre Covid-19 position or if alternative service arrangements that have been introduced, provide an opportunity to review and revise the service going forward, for example, using more digital platforms to deliver local services.
Leader of West Lothian Council Lawrence Fitzpatrick said:
"The outbreak of the virus has been the biggest public health emergency the UK has faced in a generation. The lockdown restrictions on the ability of people to meet, travel and attend the workplace has been hugely significant.
"The majority of council services managed to find new ways to work and maintain service delivery. However like everyone else the council has had to adapt and change throughout the past five months and it is important that our recovery is carried out in a planned and managed way to ensure that our actions are in line with the guidance provided.
"The council has been able to provide these services through the flexibility and adaptability of the workforce. Large numbers of employees have undertaken alternative duties in social care, education hubs, meal provision and pharmacy deliveries, and contacting with people who are shielded.
"The efforts of council staff has been exemplary. Some teams have delivered essential services in the most difficult of circumstances."
Throughout the Covid-19 lockdown period the council has:
- Prioritised essential services such as careline, social care, care at home, waste collections, social work, essential housing repairs and care for vulnerable people;
- Provided key worker school hubs to support critical workers responding to the Covid-19 emergency
- Processed 2,275 grants totalling nearly £26 million Business Support Grants
- Provided free school meals to over 3,000 children daily;
- Provided additional financial support of £10 per week to over 5,500 children who are entitled to free school meals;
- Provided financial support to local businesses, charities and community groups through the Third Sector Resilience Fund and the Third Sector Hardship Fund
- Provided support to over 5,600 individuals who are at the highest risk of illness from Covid-19 and were asked to follow shielding measures;
- Provided support through the West Lothian Food Fund, to those most in need, who are experiencing barriers to access food
West Lothian Council's Chief Executive Graham Hope added: "Our plan sets out the measures the council will now put in place in order to start the recovery of council services in line with Scotland's gradual easing of lockdown restrictions. Service plans are based on the latest published national guidelines but will remain under regular review in order that they can adapt to changing guidance and advice. It is important that we reflect to determine if there are alternative ways to work going forward that will allow us to deliver services more effectively and that will be part of our work."
As a result of Covid-19, the council faces a net revenue budget pressure of approximately £4.334 million in 2020/21, and council officers continue to engage with Scottish Government and COSLA around further government funding to fund the significant additional costs being incurred by the council.