This is a joint statement made by Cllr Matthew Hicks, Leader of Suffolk County Council, Cllr Sarah Adams, Leader of the Labour Group and Cllr Penny Otton, Leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group.
Today we cast aside our political differences and unite around the work needed to protect Suffolk from the coronavirus pandemic that is threatening our families, communities, health and social care services, businesses and way of life.
There can be no doubt, the impact of COVID-19 will be felt in all areas of Suffolk, from our urban neighbourhoods to our rural hamlets. It will be felt by our toddlers and children, some of whom will miss their schools, playgroups and nurseries. It will push to the limit our businesses, who may struggle to maintain daily operations or have had to close. It will be very real for our elderly and vulnerable residents, for whom self-isolation and social distancing will be necessities, but also a significant worry.
It will change lives. It will demand that each one of us lives very differently for a relatively short while if we are to stand any chance of beating this virus. This means we must all be selfless and do the right thing for society, even if it negatively impacts on us. We must all follow official advice, not leave it to others. We must think about others, not ourselves. This calls for decisive action, from all walks of life. We are already seeing Suffolk communities come together with kindness and innovation to support each other.
We recognise that people are worried and anxious about what may happen in the future – we feel the same. Many of us have parents who we want to protect, or children, whose own fears we try to address with honesty and empathy. It is an unprecedented and extraordinary time.
As elected county councillors, we see first-hand the efforts being made by our own dedicated and brilliant staff and those working in district and borough councils, police, the voluntary and business sector, and the NHS, to ensure that we continue to deliver vital services. We are all working hard together, making sure that our most vulnerable residents, young or old, are given the help they need when they need it.
Our response is defined by kindness and resilience. Whether this response will take weeks or months, we are driven by compassion, determination and versatility to do the very best for the people of Suffolk.
Suffolk County Council is at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19. This is a major incident that requires the very best joint working. For our part however, today we are setting out our core actions for the people of Suffolk, many of which we have already done. We are working in a rapidly changing situation and these actions will be continuously reviewed and updated, reflecting Government advice.
- Protect our most vulnerable residents with easy access to advice, the right practical support and provision of essential public services.
- Provide more financial stability and certainty for care providers and support them to respond with maximum flexibility, including smooth transitions between hospitals and home care.
- Make changes so that elderly and disabled residents can use their concessionary bus passes for essential journeys earlier in the day.
- Work with our schools to implement the Government’s school closure arrangements, including free school meals, support for vulnerable children and children of key workers.
- Communicate with everyone in Suffolk with timely, clear and relevant information in a wide range of ways.
- Redeploying Suffolk County Council staff into frontline social care roles
- Keep Suffolk’s highways moving so that the emergency services can respond, and essential travel can continue.
- Ensure Suffolk Fire and Rescue has the resources to respond when lives are at risk.
- Work with district and borough councils and the Chamber of Commerce in Suffolk to support local businesses and the self-employed with advice and guidance.
- Start work now on plans to help Suffolk’s communities and economy recover from COVID-19.
Our response to COVID-19 is the number one priority for Suffolk County Council. We face no greater challenge. Whilst we may not always be able to do as much as we want, we assure you that we are mobilising every resource and asset we have to protect and support our people and our county. Our great communities, businesses, schools and our public services and health colleagues are united in this fight to save lives, protect those most vulnerable and support our communities.
Thank you for the sacrifices you are making to help us to do what’s right for Suffolk.