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Date published: 2nd November 2020

Statement to be made by the Leader of the Council, Cllr Sarah Butikofer, as Urgent Business following the Prime Minister’s statement on the evening of the 31st October advising that there will be a second national lockdown in England from Thursday 5th November through until the 2nd December:

Following the Prime Minister’s statement on Saturday evening advising that there will be a second national lockdown in England from Thursday 5th November through until the 2nd December; both the Chief Executive and I attended a webinar led by the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick yesterday evening, the headline messages from which are as follows:

  • The Government now says that it recognises that a second national lockdown will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and has only taken the difficult decision after recognising that local measures through the tiering arrangements had not been successful in halting the spread of the virus, with cases now rising in all regions of England such that, without stronger measures, concerns existed that within a matter of weeks the NHS would be under significant pressures.
  • This lockdown is not the same as the one in the Spring – in that the Government hopes that schools, colleges and universities will remain open.
  • Further, in many sectors of the economy people should continue to go to work – if they can they should work from home, but in the construction and manufacturing sectors and tradespeople undertaking work in people’s homes, these occupations should continue with people adhering to social distancing guidance.
  • Non-essential retail, hospitality, indoor leisure and personal services (hairdressers, barbers, beauticians etc) have to close.
  • Churches can only open for private prayer and funerals (under social distancing guidelines) but not for collective worship and this includes indoor services of remembrance.
  • Outdoor play areas can remain open and people can continue to exercise outdoors alone or in a household group. Amateur team sports activities have to cease.
  • Public services are to remain open including refuse and recycling services, DWP, courts and some local council services – although further guidance is to be issued on this early this week.
  • Restrictions on visits to care homes will remain.
  • Support for Rough Sleepers continues building on the earlier Everybody In initiative and I am pleased to share with Cabinet that last week, prior to the lockdown announcement, the District Council had been successful in its application for £140,000 of grant funding, which the Council is matching, to purchase four units of accommodation for emergency short-term use under the Next Steps Programme, something which was already underway without this support but we are pleased to be able to extend.
  • In terms of supporting our most vulnerable residents, people identified as Clinically Extremely Vulnerable – ie those who were advised to “shield” under the first national lockdown, the Government is advising people in this group that they should significantly restrict their social contact and avoid shopping, including visiting pharmacies, if at all possible. Local government is asked to support people in this group with shopping and collecting prescriptions etc and we will therefore stand up our Community Support arrangements and promote again our COVID helpline and email address so that any local person who is concerned about being able to access shopping and medicines can be supported.
  • Businesses required to close by the lockdown legislation will be paid up to £3000 per month by the Government and details will also be issued later this week for local authorities to operate a further discretionary business support programme – and our officers will review and implement a local support scheme as soon as the guidance is published, recognising the considerable uncertainty this further lockdown will create for many small businesses in the District.

So what does the national lockdown mean for North Norfolk and the District Council?

Well, as one of the local authority areas with the lowest rates of infection in the country, we recognise that the decision by the Government to move forward with a national lockdown will be met with disappointment by many local people and businesses after working so hard to keep rates of infection in the District low throughout the summer. 

However, as many people in North Norfolk are in older age groups, and therefore the most vulnerable age group to the COVID infection, a further lockdown together with the low underlying rates in North Norfolk will give many people in North Norfolk comfort through further minimising the level of risk they might otherwise face in contracting the virus.

But we recognise that this announcement will create uncertainty for local people and particularly local businesses - we are therefore having a meeting of our internal GOLD civil contingency group to discuss arrangements this afternoon, and to develop the Council’s formal response to the lockdown announcement.

Our initial thoughts are that we will continue to be able to provide the Council’s core services without significant interruption as the majority of staff are already working from home.

We will however stand up our Community Support arrangements, with wider promotion again of our 01263 516000 and nndccovid19@north-norfolk.gov.uk, so that residents unable to access shopping online or through family and friends or collect prescriptions can be supported to Stay at Home in accordance with the Government guidance.

We will also strengthen our Business Advice and Support service so that businesses which are required to close are supported quickly to access Government funding and other support through any discretionary support programme we are able to establish.

We will review the opening of our facilities – at this stage we believe we will keep open all of our playgrounds and car parks so that local people can access the outdoors during the lockdown for their mental health wellbeing.  We will however consider whether, due to lower use, we can close some public conveniences where we have a number of facilities in one town so as to save money on cleaning, utilities etc – if we make such a decision we will advertise the nearest alternative facilities for people to use.

We will continue to work with partners across Norfolk in responding to the COVID situation here in Norfolk – whilst our rates of infection remain some of the lowest in the country, colleagues in other Norfolk Districts have seen some localised spikes in infections, particularly associated with meat processing plants – Banham Poultry, Bernard Matthews and Cranswick Country Foods and through mutual aid arrangements some of our staff have volunteered to support Great Yarmouth and Breckland Councils manage the local outbreaks in their areas – and for this we are all grateful, I would like to pass on to these teams that those Council leaders have written expressing their thanks to us all recognising that across Norfolk we are all in this together.

We therefore urge our residents and businesses once again to Stay at Home, Save Lives and Protect the NHS – but stand ready to support anyone who needs our help and support at this time and in the coming weeks.

Last updated: 5th February 2021