Chairman’s weekly statement on the coronavirus pandemic – 12 June 2020

Thank you to everyone who responded to the Council’s consultation on coronavirus. The Chairman of Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Avril Mumford, and I were keen to get responses quickly and our officers worked hard to make this happen. Public consultation is something Paul Masters, our new Chief Executive, and I agree is a priority, so it is good to have had such strong engagement from the community. It gives us the confidence that we are taking the concerns of our whole community into account and stands us in good stead when lobbying government on your behalf. I know that all of your Councillors wanted to capture views on these vital issues from the communities on all of our islands. Councillors are united in wanting to address the concerns raised and find the answers needed ahead of any reopening of the islands to tourism.

I have been attending meetings of the Leadership Board regularly which includes the Leader of Cornwall Council, 5 MPs, and representation from Health, Police, Local Enterprise Partnership, Chamber of Commerce and other senior officials. Our Vice Chairman, Cllr Fran Grottick, and Chief Executive also join. The Leadership Board strengthens our relationships at regional level and deals with the important issues that face Scilly and Cornwall. Our deliberations are followed up by writing to the Ministers responsible for the various issues and lobbying hard. We have sent a further two letters this week covering the shortfall in business grants and our future Transport funding requirements.

There are a wide variety of crucial questions around how to preserve public safety as government eases lockdown restrictions, whilst ensuring the economy can overcome the obstacles it currently faces. We acknowledge your frustration at the lack of clear guidance and instruction from government at this time, particularly in view of the release of 4 July as a potential date for reopening tourism. We feel the same frustration, and we, like you, need guidelines urgently.

Scilly is not alone in having to work out how businesses can reopen safely in the near future – many others across the country face the same dilemmas. However, we do experience unique issues as a result of our island context. All of your Councillors are grateful to the community for raising these issues. We now have a comprehensive list of issues that we are working to find the solutions for in consultation with government and public health. We will work closely with other organisations and community representatives and hope to have answers as soon as possible.

Having our Director for Public Health in attendance on Scrutiny Committee was extremely useful, and we will continue to work closely with the team to ensure they are aware of the specific island context into which all government guidance must be translated in order to minimise the risk of unintended outcomes.

Amid all the uncertainty however, we continue to make good progress in service provision across the Council. For example, this week business grant payments are being processed and our environmental health team have been working hard to advise those affected by government’s most recent announcement on the reopening of further businesses. They have put together some guidance on reopening your business, which can be found on our website:

Once again, I am cheered by the strength of community feeling on our islands and our ability to adapt to new circumstances. We will have to continue to do so for some time to come, but what the consultation has showed is that our community are ready and willing to act as soon as we receive the relevant guidance from government, whatever form that may take.

As part of our Outbreak Plan, we are setting up an Engagement Board which I will Chair. This will include our Chief Executive, Vice Chair and Chair of Scrutiny, plus other key partners. Even for this we are awaiting guidelines, but we will be starting early next week regardless and can then adapt if necessary.

I am fully aware, as are all your Councillors, of the huge concerns we are all facing at this time of crisis. Please be reassured however that we are starting carefully down the path to recovery. It will take time, but we will come out the other side of this before too long and our Community will show its strength and resilience and commence a new chapter in happier times.

Publishing date: 
Friday, 12 June, 2020