The Chief Executive of Mansfield District Council Hayley Barsby has provided an update on the council's response to COVID-19 and details of its ongoing recovery.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our community and led to changes in our service delivery. Our aim throughout has been to sustain critical services whilst keeping our staff and customers safe.
Regardless of coronavirus, some things didn’t stop. We continued to empty waste and recycling bins, pay and process benefits, carry out essential home repairs, support our tenants, provide outreach to our vulnerable street community and answered thousands of calls when you needed us.
Sometimes our services were running with low numbers of staff, or by staff from other areas who had been redeployed to ensure that the most critical services continued.
Whilst delivering those critical services we were also delivering our local response to COVID-19 including providing business support, processing grant claims and paying out the government grants issued to businesses, developing a community hub, supporting extremely vulnerable people, housing rough sleepers in accommodation that allowed them to self-isolate, running food delivery services and most of all we kept Mansfield going.
Some services continued uninterrupted including our Contact Centre, communications and internal support teams such as IT, Finance and HR. As a management team, we continued to respond to the pandemic in a virtual way along with many of our statutory functions such as planning and development.
Nearly all of our services are functioning now, some at full capacity such as waste and recycling and some, such as parks and open spaces, on a reduced schedule. The reason for this is that MDC staff have been supporting critical services. As we continue with our COVID-19 recovery, our aim is to remain resilient and flexible by stepping services up and down to ensure that the most vital services are delivered as a priority.
We have three recovery areas; Organisational recovery, Community and Humanitarian Recovery and Business and Economy. These plans shape our new normal.
In July we saw the reopening of the town centre, play areas were unlocked, and in line with social distancing, people started getting out more and forming social and working bubbles. In order to do this, our operational and licensing support officers teamed up with Mansfield BID to provide one-to-one advice to shops, salons, cafes and bars to ensure that they could re-open and be confident about their Covid safety.
Mansfield District Council announced that car parking will remain free until September and a decision will be made to offer half price parking from September until January 2021 to help support our local economy. By the end of July we will have contacted around 2,000 vulnerable people to signpost them to help and support in the community as the national shielding scheme comes to an end. Through the Mansfield and the county community hubs, we will be able to continue to give day-to-day help to those who need us.
This month we have brought council committee meetings online and publicly accessible on our Facebook page using Zoom. All of our council meetings will be held in this way over the coming months. By the end of the month gyms, leisure facilities and family attractions will be open with Covid-safe measures in place.
The Four Seasons Shopping Centre car park reopened on 22 July and we are reintroducing Shopmobility from 28 July. In August, we will deliver our first virtual summer festival and we will start to offer contact to customers at the Civic Centre.
Over the summer and early autumn customers will see the biggest change in our contact. In order to reduce non-essential close contact and to contain the spread of COVID-19 in Mansfield, we will be asking for digital first and self-service online through our portal. For those customers that require personal contact and face to face support, we will be offering video conferencing appointments or the option to book an appointment with officers on set days. It is important for us to do this so that we can implement effective bubble working, protect staff and customers, to remain Covid-safe for the long term.
It is our intention to encourage homeworking for the foreseeable future, to again reduce the need for our officers to be in close daily contact. This in turn will keep our services resilient and our staff well and we’ll be able to deliver their duty as public servants. We aim to only have around one third of our office based staff in situ with the rest working from home at any one time. Where staff can’t homework, they will have access to working areas that comply with the latest government guidance. For our frontline teams delivering services in our community we will continue to assess the risk to them, provide appropriate PPE and protect them as much as we possibly can.
Around October time, we will look to reopen Mansfield Museum and the Palace Theatre as civic spaces that help our community to recover and re-bond. We’ll be looking to offer more than performing arts with those venues helping communities to be resilient – we’re planning a new future for our cultural services.
By September we will have also set out our plan to MHCLG regarding the £1m capital fund we have been allocated for the town. This will be the third tranche of development funding for Mansfield to sit alongside our town centre masterplan, the Towns Fund and Future High Streets Fund - our landmark project for reimagining our town centre.
In all of this we are mindful of our local requirement to help contain the virus and deliver our element of the local outbreak control plans. This means if and when needed we can work with government and our county colleagues to bring about a local lockdown and we have plans in place for this. We are closely monitoring our local situation and will respond to the requirement if needed.
So as you can see, whilst responding to Covid, building a new normal for our service delivery and preparing for What if? We are also very much focussed on achieving the aspirations set out in our Making Mansfield 2030 strategy around four priority themes; Place, Growth, Aspiration and Wellbeing."