Councillor Judith Blake, Friday 31 July 2020 (condensed)

As you know from the media coverage, there are additional restrictions in a number of areas including Kirklees, Bradford, Calderdale, Greater Manchester and much of East Lancashire. This means that people in these areas will not be able to meet with other households (other than their support bubble) in private homes and gardens or pubs/restaurants etc. There will also be additional restrictions in Bradford, with indoor gyms, fitness and dance studios, sports courts and swimming pools required to close from 1 August. The relevant guidance is here.

It is important to emphasise that Leeds is not included in the restrictions, but given our proximity to Kirklees, Bradford and Calderdale, we need to remain vigilant, keep reminding residents of the need to stay safe, and keep our local rate of infection down. The infection rate in Leeds remains relatively low which is testament to communities across the city who have done an incredible job following the guidance.  While we are in a good position, we must not be complacent and as members we must continue to push the public health messages that we have been doing so far.

The national announcement about our neighbouring authorities will undoubtedly result in lots of queries, this briefing contains a summary of the announcement and its implications for Leeds.and it is hoped that the resources provided in this briefing will support you in your roles.

This week’s gov.delivery bulletin to over 100k residents provides clarity on the announcement and reinforces our public health messages with a special message from Victoria Eaton.

 Key Messages to Share

  • Infection rates in Leeds remain low, but major incident status retained (see below for more detail)

  • Eid Mubarak to all those celebrating, this Eid-al-Adha will feel different, and we’re asking residents to pray and celebrate in a safe and socially distanced way, we have detailed steps to help residents to pray and celebrate safely – shared on Facebook and Twitter

  • Saturday marked the first day that people who’ve been shielding at home can return to more of community life, we’re urging all residents to work together to keep them, and everybody else, safe by following the latest advice, please wash your hands regularly, wear face coverings when out in public and give people distance whenever possible – shared as a thread on Twitter

  •  You should wear a face covering when using taxis or private hire vehicles, a taxi driver or private hire vehicle operator may be entitled to refuse to accept you if you don’t wear a face covering – shared on Twitter

  • L.C.C are marking what would have been the 15th Leeds Pride this Sunday. by lighting up our civic buildings in rainbow colours as well as flying the pride, bi and trans flags. If you’re celebrating, please do so safely – shared on Facebook and Twitter. Instead of the parade this year the organisers are asking people to still celebrate Leeds Pride but at home and share photos using #LeedsPrideAtHome.

  • Housing Leeds are continuing to remobilise (see below for more detail)

In response to rising numbers of coronavirus infections nationally, the Prime Minister has announced the following:

  • Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and close contact services will not reopen from 1 August as planned- this is paused until at least 15 August.

  •  Indoor performances and wedding receptions will not be able to take place until at least 15 August (wedding ceremonies can still proceed)

  • From 8 August face coverings must be worn in areas where there is likely to be contact with people from other households, such as museums and galleries, cinemas and places of worship.

  • The planned pilots of sports events from 1 August are paused until at least 15 August

  • Anyone with symptoms of Covid-19, or who tests positive, will now have to self-isolate for ten days rather than 7, the UK Chief Medical Officers have announced. NHS Test and Trace are launching a campaign to encourage more people to get tested as soon as they develop symptoms, alongside a new business plan to double testing capacity to 500,000 tests a day ahead of winter. You will see in this that local authorities are referred to as a key partner at the heart of test and trace.

  • In June an exemption was put in place for health and social care workers, meaning they did not need to self-isolate when returning from high-risk countries. This exemption has now been removed, bringing the advice for health and social care workers in line with the advice for the rest of the public, which is that they must self-isolate for two weeks when returning to England from any country not on the ‘travel corridors’ exemption list- noting that this list is currently changing frequently. (Please note that Luxembourg has been removed from the ‘travel corridor’ list).

  • The Government has produced a number of simple ‘Action Cards’ to help workplaces understand their responsibilities to identify, report and respond to outbreaks of coronavirus. Please help raise awareness of this important information by sharing these resources with any employers or businesses that you work. The following suggested message can be used: Are you an employer or business in Leeds? The Government has shared printer-friendly ‘Action Cards’ to help workplaces understand their responsibilities to identify, report and respond to outbreaks of coronavirus. By following this guidance, you can play your part to help prevent the spread of infection and reduce the risk of further disruption from COVID-19. The Workplace Action Cards are available to download here.

  • Leeds Community Foundation had been awarded funding to deliver the Healthy Holidays programme in 2020. Many of you will be familiar with the programme, which provides activities and healthy meals to children, particularly those on free school meals, during the school holidays. The attached briefing note provides detail about the programme that will run this year.

Major Incident Status Retained: Message from L.C.C You will recall that Leeds declared a “major incident” at the end of March and most areas across the country declared that status at a similar time. It basically means that you put in place multi-agency command and control arrangements, and as you know we have used these updates to keep you posted about the key issues and actions in relation to the pandemic. We have continually adapted the multi-agency arrangements during this period and reported this through Executive Board reports. The infection rate in Leeds is low at the moment, but we aren’t complacent and rates are high across WY and other parts of Y&H. Against this context, and in line with our WY colleagues and the WY Resilience Forum, we will retain the status of “major incident”, and continue to adapt our multi-agency arrangements accordingly.

Cases and Mortality: As of 9am on 31 July, 303,181 people have tested positive for coronavirus in the UK. As at 5pm on July 30th, the number of confirmed cases within Leeds stood at 3,832. As at 29th July, the 7 day average infection rate is 5.1 per 100,000 for Leeds, 13 per 100,000 for Yorkshire & Humber, and 7.9 per 100,000 nationally.  The latest PHE Weekly Surveillance Report sets out the national increase in positive cases, and provides details of the local authority areas on the government’s watchlist.

Outbreak Management:  There are currently no live care home or workplace outbreaks in Leeds. While this is positive news, we have started to see an increase in community transmissions via households, which is a cause for concern. Public Health colleagues are working closely with relevant ward members and we will be reinforcing our public health communications, including tonight’s gov.delivery bulletin to residents, in light of the restrictions imposed in other parts of West Yorkshire. You will recall we did a comprehensive update of preventative work in relation to outbreaks in the last update.

Local Developments relating to Businesses and Housing

The latest Economic Briefing Note is attached. Please note that this briefing will become fortnightly instead of weekly, with the next note to follow on 14 August. Headlines include:

  • The second phase of the Discretionary Business Support Scheme will launch on 3 August, offering more flexibility for small and medium-sized businesses.

  • Figures for office lettings in Leeds city centre for Quarter 2 of 2020 were the lowest since the data compilation began in 2014

  • The UK economy could take until 2024 to return to the size it was before the coronavirus lockdown, according to analysis from EY

  • An innovative, sustainable Employment and Skills project delivering mental health support for vulnerable young people in Leeds and Bradford is to be launched this summe

 Housing Leeds continues to remobilise its services as follows:

  • In Council homes, we are now carrying out all types of repairs again and are working through the backlog of non-urgent repairs that has built up during lockdown. It will take us longer than usual to complete some non-urgent repairs until we have cleared the backlog which we anticipate will be in September. Tenants who have already reported repairs do not need to report them again and we are making contact with tenants to book appointments in as we work through the backlog.

  • We have now resumed almost all Council housing investment programme activity,  including communal, external and environmental works and some investment work in homes.

  • Housing teams continue to take a supportive approach to Council Housing rent collection and arrears management at this time.  Some arrears visits and more formal arrears action will begin in August where tenants are not engaging with staff.

  • Housing teams will over the coming weeks be undertaking more activity on site, including an increase in doorstep visits on tenancy matters and completing estate and block inspections.

  • Teams continue to make 10k telephone contacts per week to tenants living in the Council’s Retirement Life schemes.  Over the next few weeks will be increasing our staff presence on schemes and undertaking some doorstep visits.

  • Risk assessments have been undertaken of communal areas of Retirement Life schemes to assess how we keep each scheme safe.  To ensure the continued safety of residents, communal lounges will remain closed – this will be reviewed at the end of August.

  • Choice Based Lettings went live on 24 June, and we are increasing the number of homes advertised.  Lettings are now well underway of Council homes allocated prior to lockdown, where the applicant is in a position to move.

  • LHO have continued to provide housing options support to around 650 people per week during lockdown, and secured positive accommodation outcomes for 91% of cases where the prevention duty has come to an end.  There are currently 127 people in the emergency hotel accommodation set up at the start of lockdown.

  • The Private Sector team has resumed more inspection activity and from 1 August will be resuming the collection of outstanding Selective Licencing and HMO Licencing fees.

  • All remobilisation plans are being progressed in close consultation with managers, Trade Unions, contractors and partners.  We continue to update the Council web pages with our remobilisation plans, and send emails to Council tenants with key updates.