We are living in unprecedented times. I know this is a phrase that has been much used over the past few weeks, and particularly following last night's announcement by the Prime Minister. It is nonetheless very true.
In Lincolnshire, we have not yet been directly impacted by the spread of COVID-19, the coronavirus, but we would be foolish to think that it is not coming.
That is why, yesterday, I and my colleague, Rosemary Trollope Bellew, took the decision, with the Showmen's Association, to cancel this year's Mid Lent Fairs in Stamford and Grantham.
And it is why, today, I am recommending that we close the Stamford Arts Centre, the Guildhall in Grantham, Bourne Corn Exchange and Wyndham Park Visitors Centre. We are, as I speak, actively talking with our staff at these venues to explain what this means for them. Naturally, they will be paid. But we may also be able, where appropriate, to redeploy some people to help us deliver our key services for our residents and our businesses.
To protect our tenants, many of whom are vulnerable, there are a number of measures we are putting in place, including:
- Closing all common rooms and cancelling any bookings by external organisations
- Pausing improvement works to minimise contact and disruption for our tenants, and enable us to move resources from improvements to emergency repairs and resilience e.g. heating, hot water, electrics
We will be writing to each tenant this week about these changes and letting them know how best to contact us with any questions or concerns.
Our staff are being updated regularly, and we are following Government advice in relation to meetings, travel, and enabling, where possible, homeworking. An emergency planning team has been established and is being led by our Chief Executive, Karen Bradford. To support this, an incident room is already up and running in our offices on St Peter's Hill.
It should come as no surprise that, in light of the situation, I am suspending all Council and Committee meetings for the foreseeable future. Naturally, there will be key business decisions that have to be taken in order for SKDC to continue to deliver its statutory services and to ensure that we support our communities. Emergency legislation is expected to be published by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to enable this to happen through delegation. This will also clarify the position regarding planning and licensing committees.
None of these decisions have been taken lightly. They have a profound impact on people's livelihood, our local economy, and our community way of life.
Part of South Kesteven's appeal is that it is a large and largely rural district. We have a predominantly older population and, as with all communities, we will have a number of people who are vulnerable.
So the message is simple really. The health and wellbeing of our staff, our residents, our tenants, and, of course, our members, simply must come first. And we must play our part in supporting the Government and our colleagues across Lincolnshire and the region, in fighting Covid-19 by working together and following the best medical and scientific advice, to support, protect, and deliver for our communities.