We want to urge everyone to stick to the restrictions imposed by the UK Government on the evening of Monday 23 March 2020. The message could not be more important – stay at home and you will save lives. These measures are essential to all of us protecting our friends, family and neighbours as well as our NHS at this very difficult time. By following the official advice you will play a vital part in the battle against the virus.
Coronavirus is a huge challenge to every aspect of life in Lambeth. The council and our incredible team of staff are working extremely hard with our NHS, voluntary sector, businesses, and other partners to limit health, social and economic hard to our residents and to plan for what comes next:
YOUR LABOUR COUNCIL – ON YOUR SIDE
The council is mobilising all its resources to deliver essential services. This has meant reducing some services in line with Government advice (including closing our customer service centre, libraries and leisure centres) and redeploying staff to other areas. However, as well as the action I have set out, we are looking at all the services we offer and at what more we can do to help residents, as well as listening to feedback directly from you. As a result, we are:
- Expanding our Emergency Support Scheme for those at immediate risk of financial hardship, with an extra £500,000 for emergency financial support for Lambeth residents.
- Pausing all enforcement activity against people for council tax and rent arrears during the pandemic. It is vital you keep paying your council tax and rent if you can so you do not fall into debt but we do not wish to cause anxiety for people at this stressful time. Please contact us immediately if they have any problems with paying your council tax. We have already committed to not pursuing any evictions during this period as well.
- Expanding our support for vulnerable people who struggle to pay their council tax by increasing the scope and funding for our Council Tax Support Scheme.
- Offering council tax payment flexibility, for example switching direct debit payments so they run from June to March. Please contact the council tax team if you wish to discuss this further.
- We have invested additional money in our Crowdfunding platform to enable grants for local community organisations that are responding to the pandemic.
- We are introducing free parking for all NHS staff and key workers in the borough.
- We are treating our agency staff as permanent so they will be paid if sick or self-isolating.
- No evictions will be pursued by the council during the pandemic and we are urging housing associations in the borough to do the same.
- Our rough sleeping outreach team continue to conduct daily shifts to locate and support any rough sleeper found or known to be sleeping rough in the borough. Rough sleepers are recognised as a specifically vulnerable group and our Borough Emergency Control Centre are drawing up specific plans to support them during the crisis.
- We are waiting for access to the Pan London, GLA funded hotels which should be available to rough sleepers across London very soon. The Pan London provision is being offered in conjunction with support from health colleagues which means each rough sleeper is being triaged on arrival.
PROTECTING VULNERABLE PEOPLE
The council’s number one priority is to support the over 4000 most vulnerable residents in our borough. We continue to work very closely with our foodbanks, Lambeth Larder, Age UK and other organisations to ensure vulnerable residents have access to the supplies they need to stay safely at home.
We have launched a helpline for vulnerable people to contact the council as part of our Community Hub which is the command centre for their protection, and where food and medicine deliver, connection and distance support as well as intelligence and information dispersal will be coordinated. The number is 020 7926 2999.
A huge amount of work has already been done by the community here in Lambeth to help many people who desperately need the support of their neighbours – those people are the very best of our Borough. Now, we need to harness the energy of our community to help those in need – please volunteer at lambeth.gov.uk/forms/volunteer-to-help-your-community to take part in this enormous community effort.
SUPPORTING WORKERS AND BUSINESSES
We have launched a major economic package to support workers and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst we welcome the government’s announcements, we have continued to lobby to ensure that support is rolled out as quickly as possible and is extended to self-employed workers.
This is a time of great anxiety for workers and businesses – and we will continue to do all in our power to help our community through this.
Lambeth’s Local Economy Support Package will include:
- Rent relief for voluntary and community sector and businesses that rent council properties, benefiting over 220 local small businesses and community organisations.
- Grants to businesses – Government have announced grants of either £10,000 or £25,000 for businesses who receive Small Business Rate Relief or are in the retail, hospitality or leisure sectors. From today we are paying these grants directly to businesses who are eligible, and we are doing this before receiving the funding from Government.
- Business Rates relief – the business rate relief support announced by Government is being applied to accounts automatically. This includes 100% business rate relief for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for 2020/21.
- Freezing commercial waste charges for any pub, club or restaurant that requests it.
- We have established a Business Task Force with Lambeth’s 7 Business Improvement Districts, coordinating our response and working up additional proposals to support local businesses and support the eventual economic recovery effort
- Lobbying Government to support our self-employed residents, many of which work in the creative industries in Lambeth, with additional measures to alleviate financial hardship.
This is a package that will invest over £1.2 million in local businesses and voluntary groups, providing a lifeline to many in these difficult times and ensuring our thriving business and voluntary sectors can bounce back when this crisis recedes.