The Chairman provided an update to the Committee on the major developments that had taken place within the Committee’s remit since the last meeting held 19 January 2021.
That meeting followed the Prime Minister’s announcement in early January about further national restrictions which would have a significant impact upon the economy, people’s lives and council services, whilst trying to prevent the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives. Colleagues from the Clinical Commissioning Group were presenting to the meeting regarding the impact Covid has had on their operations and their involvement in the vaccination programme which lay at the heart of our ability to get back to something resembling normality. Infection rates had dropped across Nottinghamshire and Newark and Sherwood now had the second lowest infection rate of any Nottinghamshire district, which was both positive and encouraging. Covid related hospital admissions were at their lowest levels since 23 October last year and the vaccination programme continued to be rolled out at pace. As of last week, more than 366,000 vaccinations had taken place in Nottinghamshire, with cohorts 1-9 on track to be vaccinated by 15 April 2021.
Later this week the first mobile asymptomatic testing facility in Nottinghamshire would be rolled out in Ollerton at the Council’s own Forest Road car park, this was another positive step in both the testing and vaccination programme. The Chairman and Members on this Committee would like to pay tribute to all colleagues on the frontline of this effort. With the progress on the vaccination front, the Prime Minster recently announced his phased roadmap to recovery. This would inevitably mean that our colleagues would once again be supporting this effort, to enable our businesses and communities to recover as quickly and as safely as possible.
Colleagues from environmental health would be providing advice and support to businesses as they re-opened from no earlier than 12 April. Outdoor attractions, libraries, community centres, personal care premises, all retail and outdoor hospitality would hopefully be able to open from this time. Colleagues would be visiting premises and playing a visible role in town centres, to positively reinforce messages around hands, face and space which would still be in effect at this time.
Colleagues in Active4Today were aiming to re-open the leisure centres in Newark, Ollerton and Blidworth towards the end of the month and there was a significant task for them in terms of recovering the losses in the membership base that the leisure industry had seen as a whole since the start of the pandemic. Getting them open was a positive first step on the road to recovery and, hopefully, by the next meeting in June, the new pool in Ollerton would be open and available to use. This fantastic development would hopefully encourage more community swimming use as well as a new opportunity for A4T to market the leisure offer as a means of recovering its membership.
In relation to the Council’s cleansing and grounds maintenance services, since the last meeting, Policy and Finance and the Homes and Communities Committees both approved the proposals to bring the housing grounds maintenance service back in-house. New operatives had been recruited to deliver the work, with the change due to take effect in April 2021. This would lead to a better, more consistent and more accountable service for streetscene, irrespective of whether communities were on HRA land or not. In addition to the delivery of this service in house, the environmental services business unit had also won 11 new contracts with town and parish councils for grounds works which was further good news in terms of trying to bring greater consistency to making Newark and Sherwood greener.
The Chatham Court and Lovers Lane areas in Newark were currently benefitting from the award of £550,000 through the Home Office’s Safer Streets Fund. Whilst responsibility for community safety sat with Homes and Communities, environmental improvements had been made as a result of interventions from colleagues in street scene, who had been sprucing up the streets and open spaces.
On 17 February, a mini day of action was held in which the areas were litter-picked, streets swept and trees planted, with the day being hailed a fantastic success by the local residents. This was a significant contribution to a range of interventions which wetre designed to make residents feel safer in a ward which statistically had low ratings when compared to the rest of Newark and Sherwood.
Member’s attention was drawn to two reports on the agenda, in relation to the Council’s recently adopted Carbon Reduction Strategy and Action Plan. Two of the principle carbon emitters within the Council were the fleet and also Council assets, particularly Council leisure centres. As such, the Chairman was pleased to see how quickly the Council was starting to respond to this agenda with proposals to undertake a feasibility study for installing photovoltaics on Council leisure centres whilst also setting out a roadmap to help the Council transition successfully through the complex landscape of moving to electric or ultra-low emission vehicles. That journey may begin with the purchase of two electric vehicles next financial year – the first such purchases by the Council, which the Chairman hoped would be endorsed by this committee.