An emergency budget of £15 million was unanimously agreed by councillors to cover the anticipated impact of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic at the first online meeting of the Executive last night.

Under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and as part of Surrey’s Local Resilience Forum, the Council plays a vitally important role in responding to the emergency to save lives, protect the NHS and shield residents. It also has a duty to ensure essential services continue to run. Councillors agreed to fund the budget from reserves to cover the costs being incurred and potential loss of income as a result of the unprecendented outbreak. The final decision will be ratified by Full Council on 5 May.

At the meeting, Leader of the Council, Cllr Caroline Reeves explained how residents were at the heart of the Council’s response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

She said: ‘As I’ve said before, the outstanding community spirit and help being given by residents to support the most vulnerable people across our borough in these difficult times is heart-warming. I’m in no doubt we will harness this altruism when we start to emerge and recover from the crisis.

‘The coronavirus pandemic has also brought renewed respect and value for our public services. We see this through the applause for the NHS and key workers on Thursday evenings. We also see this at a local level with people showing so much gratitude and appreciation for our own staff delivering essential services. For example, notes are attached to bins to thank our refuse and recycling crews, social media highlights the appreciation that residents have for our beautiful parks and countryside and we have received so many messages thanking us for the ways in which we have been supporting the community.

‘I give my sincere thanks to our staff for maintaining our essential services during this incredibly challenging time, when I know they simply feel they are doing their jobs. It’s humbling.

‘I also want to highlight the huge amount of work that is taking place within the Council to address the crisis directly. Within a matter of weeks or even days in some cases, the Council has reorganised itself to deliver entirely new services to protect our most vulnerable residents. We are determined that no resident is without food or other support.

‘New community helplines have been installed and staffed seven days a week, local food distribution hubs have been established, Spectrum Leisure Centre is operating as the countywide base for distributing food to those who are shielding, meals on wheels have been stepped-up and guidance and advice is being provided to residents through our communications like never before. We are receiving wonderful feedback from those who’ve received food parcels and phone calls saying we are making a real difference to their lives.

To give an indication of the scale of these changes and how we have adapted as an organisation to play our part in supporting the community through this crisis over the past four weeks:

• 4,919 telephone calls have been made to our most vulnerable residents

• 1,021 calls have been received by our vulnerable persons helpline and housing advice service

• 399 food parcel deliveries have been delivered to our residents

• 1,087 food parcels have been delivered countywide from Guildford Spectrum

• 4,492 meals on wheels have been provided

• 133,759 bins emptied per week (this excludes commercial and street cleaning)

• 1065.75 tonnes of waste a week (this excludes commercial and street cleaning)

• 88 urgent minor home adaptations have been completed to keep elderly and vulnerable residents safe

• 31,851 information leaflets have been delivered to households by staff and volunteers

• 41 homeless people have been placed in accommodation

• 85 staff have been redeployed to welfare hubs and the vulnerable persons helpline

• 40,613 web pages have been viewed on the coronavirus section of our website

• 57,939 public engagements have been recorded with our social media activity

• 441 grants have been paid to local businesses totalling £6.4 million

She added: ‘I would like to thank the Managing Director, James Whiteman and all our staff again for the way in which they have stepped-up during these unprecedented times to protect and care for the most vulnerable people in our community. The strength and importance of local government across the country has been underlined and we are pleased to have been part of that.

‘Whilst this period will always be full of great sadness at the many lives lost and the hurt felt by bereaved families, I also believe that we will be proud of how Guildford played its small part in defeating this virus.

‘I have great confidence that we will lead the local community in its economic and social recovery. Life will change for so many of us in so many ways and I really hope that we can keep the best of what has transpired over these past few weeks and no doubt months and use it to create a new and better way of living for everyone.’

Lead Councillor for Finance and Assets and Customer Services, Cllr Joss Bigmore said: ‘The £15 million sum is from general fund reserves and will be used if we don’t receive further government support. Funding has been promised and is expected but the amounts are unknown and at present we have received just £52,000.’