Message from Council Leader Roger Truelove
It’s been a couple of weeks since my last message, and I’m pleased to see that the people of Swale have – with limited unfortunate exceptions – continued to observe the rules on staying at home and social distancing.
This is the most important thing we can all do to help bring this crisis to an end, and I hope we all continue to follow the guidance to stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.
It is now just over four weeks since we at the council began adjusting to the challenges brought about by the pandemic and by government expectations of the role we should play.
This has often been hectic and demanding and I want to repeat my thanks to our staff who have worked tirelessly over the past month.
I also want to pay tribute to the many volunteers in the community who are helping us to meet these challenges.
I would also like to thank my fellow councillors from all parties who are working with their local communities and coming together as a council.
Despite increased pressure, we are working hard to keep control of the increasing level of people presenting to us as homeless. Officers have been working to try to make sure no-one is sleeping rough on the borough’s streets.
Our community support hub is up and running to help those clinically extremely vulnerable people that the government has asked to shield themselves by self-isolating for 12 weeks. Most of these have a network of support that can help them remain safely at home by helping with things like shopping. For those that don’t, we can help them if they call us on 01795 417525.
We have now also made grants to local foodbanks and Citizens Advice Swale who are helping local people through difficult times, and we have brought forward our members grants scheme so that individual councillors can offer financial help to local community groups.
We have also contacted 2,600 local small businesses to help them apply for the grants of up to £25,000, and the first payments will be arriving in business accounts this week.
Our waste collection service is being maintained, and I am immensely grateful to the public for the support and understanding they are showing when there have been some delays. The wall covered in thank you messages at the depot shows the warm appreciation we all have for those who are continuing to collect our bins in difficult circumstances.
I know I speak for most of us when I offer my appreciation for the dedication of those working on the front line. Our health and social care workers, those who are working so hard in our supermarkets, delivery drivers, manufacturers, the list goes on. It is devastating when we hear stories of these good people being abused, through misunderstanding, ignorance or just plain jealousy.
It has never been more important to work with our partners – in the NHS, at Kent County Council and Kent Police – to keep people safe. The police were a tremendous help over the Easter weekend as we worked to discourage people from visiting our popular beaches and parks.
We are also receiving regular briefings from government ministers as they recognise the vital part being played by local councils in fighting back against this virus.
We are still a long way from winning this battle, and I know it’s incredibly hard for many.
Isolation, uncertainty and worry for the future are not uncommon. But among all this, I see incredible amounts of hope and reasons to be optimistic.
People are coming out of retirement to help the NHS and others are volunteering to help their neighbours and friends get food and supplies while they stay safe.
Parents are sharing ideas to help teach their children at home, and friends and relatives are checking in on each other to remind those that are isolating that they are not alone.
All the windows filled with children’s rainbows remind us that the sun can still shine, and the weekly clap for the NHS reconnects us with our friends and neighbours even though we must – for now – remain at a safe distance.
But, if we continue to do what we must, and remember why we are doing this – to stay safe, protect the NHS and save lives – we will, to quote The Queen, “meet again.”
Cllr Roger Truelove
Leader, Swale Borough Council