‘Growing Forward’ Report Outlines Barrow Councils’s Response To COVID-19

A key council report has unveiled an ambitious road map towards strong communities and a resilient, diverse economy for Barrow following the coronavirus outbreak.

Named ‘Growing Forward’, the document will be discussed by members of Barrow Borough Council’s executive committee next Wednesday, July 8.

It sets out the way in which the authority responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with the deployment of its Business Continuity Plan to ensure vital services could continue to be delivered throughout lockdown while keeping both staff and residents safe.

It also highlights how it will achieve its long term vision for Barrow to become a great place to live, work and visit.

Councillor Ann Thomson, the leader of Barrow Borough Council, said: “The Covid-19 outbreak was absolutely unprecedented and we had to be agile as an organisation to make sure we could continue to deliver frontline services to our communities.

“I am incredibly proud of the ways in which our teams responded; pulling together, adapting, learning new skills and taking on different roles to make sure the borough council continued to support thousands of residents, families and businesses.

“It’s been a tough time, there’s no doubt about that, but the work going on behind the scenes has been phenomenal. 

“During lockdown, efforts continued to go into planning for our recovery so that we come through this stronger than before and with a bright future ahead of us.

“Key to this is bringing to life the priorities listed in our Council Plan, published in January, and the exciting opportunities for regeneration and economic growth the Towns Deal and Future High Streets are bringing.”

Growing Forward provides a list of the actions taken by Barrow Borough Council since March.

It included closing venues such as Barrow Town Hall, The Forum and The Dock Museum to public access in a bid to halt the virus, save lives and reduce pressures on the NHS.

Council staff began to work from home where possible with many taking on new roles and responsibilities or redeploying into other areas.

Barrow Borough Council staff also volunteered to run the borough’s emergency helpline to provide crucial support to those shielding or self-isolating – including the delivery of food and prescription medicines to vulnerable people. 

The authority worked in partnership with a number of organisations to create a functioning Recovery Centre at Furness Academy offering step down care to coronavirus patients leaving hospital.

Thankfully this facility was not used and is now being stored by the council should it be required at short notice once more.

Borough council staff answered 775 calls during the first week of lockdown and a further 4,500 calls during April and May.

More than 1,000 businesses have benefited from Business Grants totalling £11 million while 830 households adversely impacted by the outbreak have received council tax relief.

Emergency assistance was provided to 37 households in need of urgent accommodation.

Incidents of fly-tipping in the borough increased by 200 per cent during lockdown. Some 126 tonnes of additional waste was recovered by the streetcare team as well as continued household waste and recycling collections.

Now, the council’s focus is turning to recovery for communities, businesses and the economy through refocused priorities and re-imagined services.

Councillor Thomson added: “We know Covid-19 will have an adverse impact upon Barrow in the short and longer term in line with many other towns and cities across the country. 

“But we are clear that we want the borough to thrive in the future and we are determined to make that happen.

“We have seen the very best of our communities spring to the fore during lockdown and since, with people keen to help each other and support their neighbours through difficult times.

“Our focus now is to move forward with our vision for the borough by working with residents and our partners and continuing to adapt and be as responsive as possible.

“As a compassionate council we are committed to putting our residents at the heart of all we do. We will work with our residents and partners to redouble our efforts to tackle the inequalities that have been exposed by this virus.”