At the beginning of this crisis, we set aside our political differences to stand together in our shared purpose of protecting and supporting our community during the Coronavirus pandemic.
As your elected representatives, we have worked in partnership with senior council officers to deliver the necessary steps that continue to support you, our residents, during this difficult time.
We have seen first-hand the tremendous efforts made by our Chief Executive, Ray Morgan, and our own dedicated officers, as well as colleagues from other essential service providers. We have also witnessed amazing support by our community, registering over 550 volunteers. We are inspired by the acts of togetherness, kindness and selflessness – thank you to all of you.
During the past months, council officers have been joined by colleagues from partner organisations, such as Freedom Leisure, providing unprecedented levels of support for our elderly and vulnerable residents. Since lockdown was introduced, we have delivered almost 11,000 community meals, made over 10,000 individual calls to ‘shielded’, elderly and vulnerable residents, delivered over 430 prescriptions, placed more than 80 people at risk of homelessness in emergency accommodation and worked with more than 1,200 household in financial hardship to arrange alternative Council Tax payment plans.
Like many of you, we have had to adapt to new ways of working. Through video conferencing technology, we have resumed council and committee meetings. The newly enacted Coronavirus Act 2020 also provides revisions to a range of local government procedures and activities, including the deferment of local elections until May 2021. The deferment of democratic roles and associated responsibilities also means that the current Mayor, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, and Deputy Mayor, Cllr Saj Hussain, will remain in office for another municipal year.
With the easing of lockdown restrictions we can begin the careful process of returning to a more normal way of life. Following government advice, we have already taken steps to reopen some of our recreation facilities, such as public tennis courts. We will continue to act in line with ongoing government advice when opening more public facilities and services. These will resume as soon as we can be sure it is safe to do so.
The coronavirus has severely affected our strong business community. Many have stepped up to the challenge by adapting and diversifying and, wherever possible, we are working with local businesses to support them with their recovery. So far we have distributed almost £13 million to over 900 local businesses through the Government’s small business support grant scheme, which provides much needed financial support during these critical times.
We are privileged to have a strong commercial and retail base that provides employment to many local residents. Therefore we urge you to support these businesses and, wherever possible, shop and trade locally.
We have all made many sacrifices to our cherished way of life. Nonetheless, this crisis is not over. It remains imperative that we all take responsibility for our actions and follow government advice to socially distance and stay alert.
There are still many hurdles ahead of us and we are not afraid to take the necessary action to safeguard our community. Yet, by coming together, supporting our local businesses and remaining tolerant of each other, we can work towards a brighter, thriving future.
For more information about council services, government and health advice, access help and support, volunteer opportunities and support for businesses, please visit www.woking.gov.uk/coronavirus
Cllr David Bittleston
Leader of Woking Borough Council, Conservative Party
Cllr Ann-Marie Barker
Leader, Liberal Democrats
Cllr Tahir Aziz
Leader, Labour Party
Cllr John Bond
Leader, Independent Group