The LGA was very well attended and we were delighted to welcome the Leader of the Council, Cllr Vikki Slade and CEO Graham Farrant attendance.
Graham Farrant gave an update on the impact of COVID19 on the community, the economy and its resultant effect on BCP. As we know the amalgamated Council was created 1st April 2019 and whilst it has been in place for just over a year in time, they have still not completed a full year under ‘normal circumstance conditions’.
With a budget of £283million/year made up of council tax, 50% business rates, and some grant money, the authority has seen a loss of £50-53 million. (Affected by big losses from car parking, trading and more money spent on moving patients out of hospitals and into care homes earlier than necessary.) Graham highlighted that food distribution and shielding were left to Council and with children not attending school, many referrals and safety issues have arisen. However, the Councils relationship with Police and Health have improved over the past few months which benefits the community.
Graham went on to say that before he arrived in post, everything in the Council was paper based and that this has completely been reversed with everything ‘online’, significantly improving planning.
Vikki Slade discussed the Community Response, Business Grants and new Discretionary Grants scheme. The Council were able to very quickly pull together a community hub response called “Together We Can” with the intention that everyone who needed it, got support in terms of food, medicine, shelter etc. Council staff were redeployed to help with essential services and participated in creating a new environment together, as well as 2,000+ volunteers who were matched up with vulnerable people. BCP is now a leading council in the way it has worked during COVID19 and found new ways of communicating with the public, including weekly ‘FaceBook lives’. To date, 6000 businesses within BCP have received £75 million in grants.
Graham and Vikki continue to lobby government to look to accommodate those businesses that aren’t covered by the grants. The Discretionary Grants Scheme has a small budget which will not go far, with the Council allocating £0.3million to business that didn’t meet criteria but were deemed important to the local economy e.g. hospitality & tourism, nurseries, finance, health & social care. Currently, the Fund has had 502 applications, with 650 businesses anticipated to apply.