Cllr John Moss is a councillor in Waltham Forest and a former Parliamentary Candidate.
Early on in the Covid-19 crisis, our Mayor, Chris Robbins, set up a WhatsApp group and added all councillors, irrespective of party, to it. This has been a source of information (and sometimes amusement) during the past few weeks as we have all sought to do the best we can to support local residents.
One of the first local organisations to kick into gear was Age UK Waltham Forest, based in Chingford. They asked for volunteers to come forward to collect prescriptions or shopping for those isolating at home on Government advice. They were rolled into the whole Borough effort with two other organisations, Eat or Heat and PL84U, who are now sharing the burden of supporting our residents across Waltham Forest.
Some of our councillors work for the NHS and their regular updates can be harrowing or heartening. Many others have joined the volunteer army, joining the queues outside supermarkets and chemists and also making daily calls to residents living alone to make sure they are OK and have some human contact.
Our councillors have also shared options for home food delivery and mental health support with each other and promoted these to our residents via social media, as well as exercise tips and of course, guidance as we have received it from the Government.
The three MPs covering Waltham Forest have also been active in co-ordinating with the Council to make sure there has always been a consistent message about what people need to do and where to go to for support.
We opened our application portal for businesses to claim their grants this week and it was, probably inevitably, swamped with applications. Personally, I have been seeking support for a couple of businesses that moved into new premises quite recently, which because they are new build or newly converted, are not on the Rating List. This means they are not, strictly speaking, eligible for the support, but our MP is writing to the Chancellor about this and we hope discretion will be given to Councils to make grants to businesses in this position in line with the wider scheme.
My job is in campaigning and whilst this has all but stopped in the UK, I am still busy with pitches and presentations, so my daily routine involves a mix of working on these in my home office, joining conference calls and keeping up liaison with our clients. Around that, I fit the trips to the chemist or supermarket to support our residents and I try and get in a daily walk. My garden has also had a bit more attention than it might otherwise have got.
We all need to stick together and support each other to get through these difficult days. I am very proud of the officers at Waltham Forest who have responded with calm competence, and of the councillors who have not tried to make any political capital out of this. I always say that politicians of every party just want to make people’s lives better, we just disagree about how to do that. This crisis has shown that the desire to help people remains the single strongest driving force within all of us.