Coronavirus: Council leader updates residents on Lambeth’s response…Croydon call for private landlords to help struggling tenants

Coronavirus: Council leader updates residents on Lambeth’s response

Lambeth council leader Jack Hopkins has written to local residents, businesses and other organisations, setting out how the council is responding to the challenge and supporting people across the borough.

In a message headed “Lambeth Stands Together”, Cllr Hopkins provided an update of the council’s work, along with partners including the NHS, voluntary sector and businesses, to limit the harm caused by the COVID-19.

He also urged people to follow official advice – and to lend their support to voluntary organisations providing help to vulnerable groups across the community. His letter reads:

Message from the Council Leader

Dear Lambeth residents and friends,

I wanted to write to you about Lambeth council’s response to Coronavirus, and how we are supporting our residents at this very difficult time.

Coronavirus is a huge challenge to every aspect of life in Lambeth as elsewhere. The council is working extremely hard with our NHS, voluntary sector, businesses and other partners to limit health, social and economic harm to our residents, and to plan for what comes next.

I first want to stress the importance of following the official advice from the UK government and Public Health England, particularly for those who are over 70, who have an underlying health condition, are displaying symptoms or have someone in their household who is displaying symptoms.

It is incumbent on all of us to act responsibly, to listen to official guidance and to work to protect our friends and neighbours.

The council are working hard to minimise disruption to our services as a result of coronavirus; however, in some cases services may be disrupted due to staff absence or official advice from the government.

We have initiated our Pandemic Coordination group to monitor the situation and coordinate the response across the council and we are working closely with our NHS partners.

Currently our offices, libraries and leisure centres are open, and our waste collection services are unaffected, but this situation is being reviewed on a daily basis and is likely to change. We are updating the community as the situation progresses.

The government yesterday announced the closure of schools and the council will be working with them to ensure that disruption is minimal. Schools have been asked to make specific provision for vulnerable children and the children of key workers: for example people working in health, social care and the police, and supermarket delivery drivers.

All Lambeth schools have already been making arrangements to deal with the disruption caused by the virus; for example, by putting materials online and arranging web-based lessons and homework. The intention is that every pupil will follow their normal timetable, including both lesson time and homework, while working at home. Parents have also been reminded not to leave their children with elderly relatives, as these are among the most vulnerable to infection with the Coronavirus.

The Lambeth Civic Centre is open, but we are asking people to attend in person only if absolutely necessary and if possible contact us online or by phone. We are prioritising supporting our most vulnerable residents; that includes over 4,000 frail, elderly and disabled people who require care. Much more information is available about council services at lambeth.gov.uk/coronavirus

The scale of the pandemic is unprecedented and will lead to major changes in our way of life over the next few months. In recognition of that, the council has taken a number of important steps:

  • We are treating our agency staff as permanent so they will be paid if sick or self-isolating.
  • No evictions will be pursued by the council during the pandemic and we are urging housing associations in the borough to do the same.
  • I joined Lambeth’s business community to lobby the Chancellor for immediate action in the face of the unprecedented economic challenge posed by the coronavirus outbreak.
  • I am pleased that action on business rates and support has been taken. We will act quickly to implement this for Lambeth businesses and continue to push the government to support all businesses and workers that are affected.
  • We are working with Lambeth’s community groups on expanding our support for vulnerable people and services in the community.

Whilst observing public health advice about limiting social contact we are encouraging residents who are well to get involved with local organisations such as Age UK Lambeth, who have a number of volunteering opportunities available.

We also know food banks need donations of goods and money so please donate if you can. There are also a number of local mutual aid and other volunteering groups that people can get involved with. We are looking to help support and co-ordinate these efforts, though they are not run by the council.

These groups are a fantastic example of what makes our borough such a great place to live and are testament to the levels of solidarity and compassion that exist in our diverse communities.

While I would encourage all those involved to follow public health advice on avoiding the spread of the virus and safeguarding vulnerable people, I also want to pay tribute to those whose first thought, at a time of great uncertainty and fear, has been how to help their neighbours rather than themselves.

Best wishes, Cllr Jack Hopkins, Leader of Lambeth Council

 

Croydon call for private landlords to help struggling tenants

Croydon council are urging private landlords to support tenants who are in financial hardship caused by coronavirus (COVID-19).

On Thursday (19 March) the council wrote to the landlords of over 35,000 private rented properties in the borough, recommending they offer either rental holidays or short-term reductions for those tenants who are at risk of homelessness because of coronavirus affecting the economy. The council already offers a range of help for residents in financial difficulty, from support managing their money to discretionary grants and one-to-one advice.

On Tuesday, the government announced significant financial measures to support the national economy and limit the virus-related impact of reduced incomes, including illness and self-isolation, restrictions on social gatherings and businesses losing money.

This government announcement included a three-month mortgage holiday for homeowners in financial difficulty. However, only 60% of Croydon residents own their property – with the remaining 40% renting, either social rented or private rented.  On Wednesday, the government announced plans to introduce emergency legislation to suspend new evictions from social or rented accommodation.

The council has already put in place measures to provide extra help for council tenants during the COVID-19 restrictions, including a pledge to not only evict no-one whose rent arrears have been caused by coronavirus restrictions but also to suspend all council evictions until further notice.

Thursday’s council letter to landlords from deputy leader Councillor Alison Butler read:

“As a significant landlord ourselves, the council fully understands the importance of rental income.  However, offering support (which might include rental holidays or short-term reductions) where residents face short-term challenges will be critical for residents during this unprecedented time. I hope that you will consider such support if it becomes necessary.”

The council already offers significant support to any borough residents in financial difficulty, including debt advice, help maximising benefits, skills training and a 24/7 homeless hub. Residents can also request to become a member of one of the borough’s Food Stops, where eligible residents can get £20 worth of fresh food and other groceries for £3.50 per week.

• For council welfare advice, freephone 0800 731 5920 or email: welfare.rights@croydon.gov.uk.
• If you are a resident needing support, or you are a community organisation wanting to refer a member of the public for help, email: gcc@croydon.gov.uk
• To report any rough sleeper you’re concerned about, use StreetLink
• For advice on how to apply for Discretionary Housing Payments, visit the council website.

Councillor Alison Butler, Croydon Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for homes and Gateway services, said: “Drops in income caused by coronavirus restrictions will most affect those who can least afford it, not just with paying rent but also affording to buy the basics in these times of great uncertainty. That is why we’re asking private landlords to do what they can to join us in helping Croydon residents in need.

“We recognise this is a big thing to ask of private landlords, especially if their sole income is from tenants, so while the government’s measures announced so far are very welcome, we urge ministers to give them additional support. The government can also help by suspending the use of all possession orders during this exceptionally tough time, not just new ones, and raising the housing benefit threshold to meet rents in full.”

 

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