COVID impact on B&NES Council’s capacity warning

With COVID-19 case rates in Bath & North East Somerset among the highest in the South West, council leaders have today issued a warning about the impact on key services facing the authority. 

Rates have increased dramatically over the last few weeks and are well above the England average. With the Government’s lifting of restrictions they are expected to climb further.

The seven-day rate per 100,000 population in B&NES was at 15th July 650.9 and the comparable England rate on the same day was 473.5 per 100,000. There were 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the Royal United Hospital in Bath. There have been four notified COVID019 deaths from the RUH this month. 

Council leader Cllr Kevin Guy said: “The lifting of restrictions coupled with the lack of guidance from the Government is seeing case numbers rise rapidly and this is having a direct impact on our own services. The council’s capacity is at breaking point after 16-months of COVID response. This coupled with long-term lack of funding for local government is bringing local authorities including ours to a critical moment. 

“Despite the pandemic we have delivered an on-budget outturn in 2020/21, with a slight improvement to our predicted end-of-year accounts. However, further financial challenges lie ahead if the third wave is followed by a fourth wave. Unless additional grant funding is forthcoming from the Government we will continue to face severe financial challenges posed by the pandemic. We are still in the midst of a public health crisis and I am asking residents and business to work with us to help protect services as much as possible.”

Financial pressures caused by the pandemic have seen a substantial loss of income from the council’s heritage, parking and commercial rent income combined with new COVID-related expenditure.

COVID impacts on the workforce are affecting services including waste and recycling where the council is having to run a six-day service to manage a backlog.        

Will Godfrey, B&NES chief executive, said: “Public services are facing an existential crisis with increased demand coupled with the impact on workforces associated with the ongoing COVID pandemic. We are seeing a critical impact on the short-term capacity to deliver our services. We already have staff self-isolating even though we have worked hard to minimise the impact of this, and we anticipate this will increase as case numbers climb rapidly.

“We will continue to prioritise services for our most vulnerable residents but we may have to take short-term action to reduce some service as we focus resources where they are needed most. It is important our residents are aware of the strain the council, like so many public and private sector organisations, is under.” 

People are asked to remain cautious and look after each other by getting double-jabbed, getting tested if you have symptoms and self-isolating if the test is positive, taking lateral flow tests regularly, washing your hands regularly, wearing a face covering in crowded areas, having good ventilation in buildings and meeting up outdoors where possible.

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