Message from the Leader of the Council on Coronavirus

CABINET-HEADSHOTS_033Merton is an amazing place and I’m so proud to live in this community. In the coming weeks and months, we will face the toughest test in most people’s memory. I am calling on everybody to play their part in protecting our residents from the spread of coronavirus.

We are already seeing unprecedented efforts, and I wanted to take an opportunity to say thank you.

I am seeing incredible work – the council is at the heart of delivering help to vulnerable people in the borough, advising schools and providing many of the day to day services that will help us through the virus.

So I’d like to pay tribute to council staff – who rarely get the credit they deserve, but have been working tirelessly around the clock to ensure we have detailed plans in place to manage the situation, keep our residents as safe as possible, and ensure the local economy is in a position to grow again once this is all over.

This is a critical moment for our local public services, and I wanted to take this opportunity to reassure you of the work that we are doing and to let you know how you can help our community.

Supporting Public Health

The council’s top priority is to support the NHS and local Public Health teams. We are committed to ensuring that residents get advice that is in line with Public Health England’s guidance. Whether it’s advising local groups about the viability of a local event, giving advice to our schools and care home teams, or signposting information for concerned residents – we will act in conjunction with Public Health England at every turn. Visit the NHS website for their latest information.

Helping those most at risk

The council has always looked after our community’s most vulnerable people. Please be reassured that, despite the additional pressures, we are working hard to support services for these vulnerable people, such as day centres, residential homes and home visit/home care. We are also putting in place contingency plans for continuing to run the service if the virus causes staff absences.

Backing businesses

Our business community is the lifeblood of Merton and it is vital that local businesses, particularly smaller businesses that are especially vulnerable, are given the help they need to survive the coming downturn. So we’ve already issued advice for businesses on our website. A 12-month business rates holiday for all retail, hospitality and leisure businesses in England has been announced, and we will be updating businesses about this in coming days and weeks as our package of support expands.

Co-ordinating our community and voluntary sector response

We are already seeing incredible support from communities and voluntary groups – offering localised, personal support to those in need, especially to those who have been advised to stay at home. Merton Voluntary Service Council (MVSC) will be coordinating the effort for volunteers in the borough, once their helpline is up and running we will share this information on the council’s social media channels. The number of Merton residents who have already got in touch to volunteer their help has made me very proud.

Helping our staff to keep working

We are doing all we can to ensure council services continue as best they can, particularly services for those who need us more than ever. Our council staff are incredible and we need to keep them safe and healthy if they are to continue to provide priority services to those who need it most at this time. We are enabling those who can work from home to do so – although for many roles it is essential to be on site.

Some services will be affected by our need to protect everyone, so please do bear with us. In particular, please follow social distancing advice. Merton Council’s website offers a wide range of services online, do check this before calling us, as it is vital we keep the phone lines free for the people who need us the most. Only visit the civic centre if it is absolutely necessary, but stay away if you have any symptoms of COVID-19 or are self-isolating.

We are not yet at the peak of the outbreak, and we do not know how long it will last.

But I did want to write to residents to say thank you for your efforts and for your patience – and to make our message absolutely clear:

We are doing everything we can to support our amazing community and to ensure our vulnerable residents are getting help that they need.

For the latest council service updates visit our COVID-19 information webpage.

Councillor Stephen Alambritis, Leader of Merton Council