Agenda item

Items of Urgent Business

To receive additional items that the Chair is of the opinion should be considered as a matter of urgency, in accordance with Section 100B (4) (b) of the Local Government Act 1972.


The Chair stated that part of the Committee’s remit was to consider business continuity, and asked what business continuity preparations were being put in place to deal with potential disruptions due to Coronavirus. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Services replied that Public Health England provided the latest updates on their website every day at 2pm, and currently 373 people had tested positive for the virus, and 6 people with underlying health conditions had passed away. She added that the Portfolio Holder, Directors Board, and Group Leaders were being provided with daily updates of the situation, with all Members receiving weekly updates on a Friday. She added that the Essex Resilience Forum and Thurrock Council had already considered the business continuity plans for a normal flu pandemic, and the impact it could cause for service delivery and the wider workforce. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Services explained that due to Coronavirus all services were currently in the process of reviewing their business continuity plans. She added that the Council already ran an agile workforce, with many staff members having the ability to work from home, and a list of critical services had been compiled which may need support from other services during a potential Coronavirus pandemic. She clarified that the Communications team were signposting residents to the government and Public Health England’s websites to ensure they were provided with the most up-to-date information, but the UK were currently in the containment phase. She summarised and stated that the Communications team, Public Health England, and the Emergency Planning team were currently working together to monitor the situation, and were working hard to ensure that business continuity plans were up to date. 

The Chair asked what the process was for reviewing business continuity plans, and asked when they would be complete. He felt particular concern for critical services such as adult social care, as the service helped the most vulnerable residents. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Service replied that most services had business continuity plans and the review would hopefully be finalised by the end of the week. She stated that the adult social care department was a priority for the emergency planning team, and work would be ongoing to minimise the impact of Coronavirus. The Chair asked if Coronavirus was likely to have a disproportionate impact on some frontline services, and asked what plans were in place to ensure these services received the necessary support. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Service responded that if necessary, staff members could be trained to work for other services, or a cross-service working policy could be implemented.

Councillor Ralph questioned the policy that was in place for homeless people if Coronavirus became a pandemic. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Service replied that she did not have the detail, but this would be covered in the housing business continuity plan, but the service would continue to support homeless people throughout a potential pandemic. She stated that as homeless people were considered vulnerable residents, they could be prioritised and a triage support system was already in place for the service. The Chair asked what was being done for frontline staff to ensure they were aware of the necessary precautions, particularly those working with more vulnerable residents, and asked what the process was for cascading this information to vulnerable residents. The Director of Strategy, Communications and Customer Service replied that frontline staff were being signposted to Public Health England’s website for the latest information, and could then cascade this information to service users. She added that social workers and other teams working in care facilities were also being kept up-to-date with information, and were often more ready for flu pandemics due to the  type of residents they worked with, for example elderly people who were more vulnerable to illness. She added that the Council were also working with Thurrock’s Community and Voluntary Services (CVS), but no particular issues had been raised to date.