54.1 The Chair of the Council invited the Leader, Councillor Ward to make his announcements.
54.2 Councillor Ward made the following announcements:
The District was now well into a sustained period of significant weekly decreases in infections. The latest data from the Suffolk Coronawatch site showed that in Babergh the infection rate was down to 52.2 per 100,000 which was so much better than a few weeks ago. In total, there had been 3,708 confirmed cases and sadly 209 deaths since the pandemic began, although this latter number was the latest data from the ONS and was only up to 5th February.
The progress that had been made in recent weeks with the delivery of the vaccines had been amazing. Despite the recent snow, this progress had catapulted Suffolk up the league tables in terms of delivery of the first doses to the first 4 cohorts and the Council was now one of the best-performing parts of the country. Approximately 60,000 vaccinations had now been delivered and capacity was currently standing at 20,400 pw in SNEE and 17,200 in WS. The latest news about the effectiveness of the two vaccines was really encouraging.
The work clearly wasn’t done however, and last week he had met with Ed Garrett from our CCGs to ensure that the Council was working as closely as possible with the NHS to support the delivery of the vaccine. Together they would be targeting resources in getting to the minority that qualify but had not yet received their jab.
It was also really good to see a huge increase in testing capability with the new community testing programme. Rapid asymptomatic testing sites were being rolled out across the county. There was now one in Cornard; Nayland opened yesterday, Holbrook would open on Thursday and Hadleigh on Friday.
He was pleased that the Council had been able to extend the council tax hardship scheme to provide further help to the most vulnerable in the district who had been most impacted by Covid.
In respect of the Government’s plans for leading the country out of lockdown, there were lots of reasons to be hopeful but in the meantime, he would like to reiterate the wider Suffolk messages that Suffolk Needs You: to follow the guidance – hands, face, space; to get tested regularly if you were unable to work from home; and to get your Covid jab when it’s your turn. In return Suffolk Supports You: through Home But Not Alone and our community involvement, the distribution of business grants, self-isolation payments and practical support for those most in need.
He wanted to pay tribute to the Council’s bin crews who were back out within 48 hours including working on the past two Saturdays, making collections and clearing the backlog as best they could despite the weather. They had now managed to catch up, despite additional staff absences due to several having to go into isolation.
As it was half term last week, he also wanted to highlight the fantastic initiative in place, building on what had been done during the Christmas holiday, to tackle holiday hunger. This scheme involved food parcels containing ingredients for five meals for a family of four distributed to families during half term. The initiative, delivered on behalf of the Council by Abbeycroft Leisure’s Explore Outdoor team, ensured no child goes hungry when free school meals are paused during the school holidays. Families in need were identified by local schools and the food parcels also included ideas on how to make food stretch further in future – making a real difference to the lives of low-income families in the district.
Finally, many would have heard that the sale of Chilton Woods to Taylor Wimpey had been completed. The Council could now look forward to this new community grow over the coming years and Babergh would ensure that the Council was involved in delivering the sustainable transport infrastructure needed to integrate it into the greater Sudbury area.