Cllr Teresa O’Neill is the Leader of Bexley Council.
Like everywhere else, the impact of COVID-19 on Local Government is hard.
In Bexley, we’ve had to work quickly to ensure we are focused on maintaining key services to those most in need, as well as do all we can to ensure the health of our staff and Councillors.
It’s a fast-moving situation but our staff have been brilliant, working round the clock to put a plan in place, especially with things changing almost hour to hour.
It is also heartening – but not unexpected – that Bexley’s residents are all playing their part.
Our borough has a large elderly population, and while many are healthy and in good shape, many will need to self-isolate. It’s important to try and co-ordinate all the offers of help where we can.
On Wednesday we launched a volunteers hub, where people who are working at home or have the time, can sign up to offer their time to assist others. This could be collecting and delivering shopping, or making phone calls to lonely residents to check they are okay, and to just talk.
The number of people who have already pledged their support is amazing, but entirely typical of Bexley’s community spirit and long-standing commitment to helping each other.
Councillors have a role to play too. Like many other councils, we’ve cancelled meetings for the next few weeks both to free up staff to focus on helping residents and also to limit the number of people at meetings together, but the role of a local councillor working in and for their community could not be clearer at times like this.
Many councillors are out and about in their wards, checking on vulnerable residents, ensuring a constant supply of information to people.
This is being done across parties and indeed I have been talking with the Leader of the Labour Group to co-ordinate the work going on and plan the help needed across the Borough.
So, in the face of this unprecedented situation, everyone – Council staff, councillors, residents, businesses – are all working together in partnership. It shows what a strong community can achieve and how we can collectively make things happen.
As they say, in Bexley, we’re keeping calm and carrying on, making sure those who need help, get it.