Welcome news this week that the Government have eased the lockdown, albeit in limited and targeted ways. This important step also marks the beginning of our road to recovery, when we expect to encounter further challenges and opportunities.
In Warwick District our priority remains keeping us all safe – our residents and our workforce – while continuing to deliver key services. Rest assured that there will be no significant changes to the way our staff operate until we are satisfied that changes to the ongoing restrictions can be managed effectively. In the meantime, for all our safety, it’s vitally important that we stay alert, continue to observe the guidance and avoid undoing the hard-fought progress we’ve made to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Other welcome news was the announcement of a new discretionary grant scheme for local businesses. We’ve only just received government guidance and expect to be able to confirm shortly how this additional funding scheme will operate. We’ve otherwise so far been able to reach 87% of eligible local businesses, making 2,223 grant payments totalling some £29 million in just six weeks, thanks to the determined efforts of our Finance Officers.
It is encouraging to see our local businesses responding positively, gradually finding ways to re-open and re-establish their connection with customers and the local community. We’re delighted to hear too that CJs events, our market operators, are working out how to safely relaunch our weekly markets in Warwick and Kenilworth.
The stars operating our Shielding Hub have now delivered just over 6,000 parcels to residents since the emergency began - a number which highlights the extent of the ongoing assistance needed across the district.
Many organisations and charities have found new and innovative ways to support their local communities and in particular those who are isolated and vulnerable as a result of the lockdown restrictions. Relief funding is now available for these key organisations to support the necessary steps they are taking to continue to operate and offer vital services to our community. Apply now for the Community Emergency Response Fund, or download the attached application pack.
Sports and Leisure
Spring weather and the joys of our beautiful Warwickshire countryside provide some excellent opportunities for us all to enjoy more time exercising safely, following the updated Government guidance. To support this activity, we have introduced the following initiatives:
From Friday 15 May, the tennis courts at Victoria Park and Christchurch Gardens in Leamington Spa, St Nicholas Park in Warwick and Abbey Fields in Kenilworth will be open daily from 10am to 7pm. Access will be restricted to two players per court, unless they are from the same household with those using the facilities reminded of the strict rules regarding hygiene and social distancing.
In conjunction with Bowls England, the Council plans to open a limited number of Bowling Greens in Victoria Park within the next few days. Local people can also now use the parks for one to one personal training whilst observing national social distancing guidance.
Improvement work begins at Warwick Racecourse next week to enable greater access for cyclists. The works comprise extending the canter down cycle link towards Linen Street, low level way-finding lighting, replacing car parking spaces moved by the cycle lane and new entrance signage. These improvements accord with the adopted masterplan for St. Mary’s Lands and are a joint project with County Council and the national cycle charity, Sustrans.
This week we’ve also asked the County Highways to consider making experimental traffic orders to help give greater priority to pedestrians and cyclists. This initiative will not only enable social distancing, but facilitate a practical change in how people can travel safely to and from our town centres.
Council Meetings online
The Coronavirus Act 2020 established the emergency measures to be implemented, including provisions that legally enable our formal Council meetings to be conducted online. On 20 May, we’re pleased to report that our Annual Council meeting will be livestreamed on the Warwick District Council YouTube channel. You can subscribe and watch the whole thing from the comfort of your own home! It’s crucial that our democratic function continues and we’re delighted that Councillors have embraced this new technology and framework for our decision-making with their typical forward thinking and positive outlook.
These small and hard fought steps on the road to recovery give us hope and clearly demonstrate that our share efforts are paying off. Let’s stay alert to this insidious virus so we can move forward positively and continue our journey working together for the benefit of all our community.
Cllr Andrew Day
Leader, Warwick District Council
Chief Executive, Warwick District Council