Agenda item

The Impact of Covid-19 on businesses and communities in Thanet


Madeline Homer, CEx introduced the item and said that it 2020/21 had been a year like no other in terms of challenges for the public sector and that local government was no exception to that. Ms Homer then gave an overview of some of the achievements made by Thanet District Council as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic.


Ms Homer said that the Council was already dealing with the pandemic prior to the national lockdown at the end of March 2020. Prior to that, the council had already conducted the following:

  • reviewed and refreshed our business continuity plans in light of coronavirus;
  • provided capacity for home working including training sessions and crib sheets for access;
  • provided staff with regular updates on the situation and included access to frequently asked questions;
  • Established an officer group including all senior management who met regularly to review the situation and what may be required by us.


The CEx said that when the national lockdown was introduced; whilst for most industries this meant reduced work; for TDC it meant everyone stepping up and working that little bit harder. Within the first week the council had:


  • Reduced access to the offices, put in increased cleaning regimes and hand sanitisers;
  • Established back office support for those working from home such as scanning and printing assistance;
  • Closed off public spaces such as playgrounds;
  • Maintained refuse collection services;
  • Allowed residents with parking permits to park in council car parks free of charge and suspended parking charges for all NHS and social care workers;
  • Set up and staffed a dedicated 7 day a week phone line to support our vulnerable residents access supplies;
  • Worked with partners to provide these essential supplies;
  • Contributed to a Kent wide dedicated business support line;
  • Provided temporary housing for all those who were sleeping rough.


This set the pattern for how the council would be responding to the challenges posed by the pandemic, for 2021 as TDC responded to the announcements from the daily government briefings. The council carried out the following activities:


  • Telephoned or visited over 6000 extremely vulnerable residents;
  • Emailed, messaged and telephoned again over 6000 extremely vulnerable residents;
  • Distributed £92K worth of support for the extremely vulnerable through food provision;
  • Distributed £113K in support for those in fuel poverty;
  • Issued warnings and prohibition notices to businesses who have flouted the restrictions
  • Responded to the biggest influx of visitors to the coast in a long time;
  • Increased toilet cleaning regime;
  • First council in Kent to hold an online licensing sub-committee;
  • Used innovative antibacterial coatings on high touch points such as parking machines;
  • Temporarily closed roads to support the reopening of high streets in July;
  • Distributed discretionary test and trace support funding;
  • Set up an enforcement team specifically for covid business enforcement and advice;
  • Provided a door knocking service for track and trace;
  • Introduced covid wardens for the high street;
  • Created a beach management plan to respond to higher than usual visitor numbers;
  • Provided sites for two drive in testing facilities and Kent's first walk in testing site;
  • Worked with partners to ensure our homeless population had access to vaccines as a vulnerable group;
  • Worked with local GPs on how to get vaccinations to the populations where take up was low.


Business stats on enforcement work

Since January 2021 the Enforcement Team had:


  • Responded to 186 requests for advice;
  • Investigated 89 complaints of non compliance;
  • Undertaken 597 compliance visits;
  • Given 57 informal written notices;
  • Given 195 verbal warning.


Covid wardens

·  Since 26th October 2020, 4 covid wardens were assigned to patrolling the towns and open spaces 7 days a week between the hours of 10-6pm;

·  Since the 6th November 2020 to 19th April 2021;

·  851 businesses were spoken to (For guidance or non Compliance advice);

·  1861 members of the general public had been spoken to (For guidance or non Compliance advice);


Interactions with the public had increased over the last month, particularly in the last week in line with the roadmap changes, as expected. Over the last month, interactions with the public had doubled. Typical issues encountered daily were non compliance with social distancing and people not wearing masks. Large groups gathering on open spaces and drinking alcohol and general antisocial behaviour (ASB). Wardens would advise and report through to Police where needed.


Officers had also been key in the Kent Wide Response, (which Ms Homer chairs), the vulnerable people and communities cell, while officers were key players in the enforcement, environment and finance cells as well as various task and finish groups. This enabled the council to drive the best interests of Thanet at the county level as well as shape the county response.


The following Business Grants were administered by the Council:


  • Last Spring/Summer the council administered business rates relief to retail, hospitality & leisure businesses, worth £22 million;
  • The council also paid (mandatory) business grants to retail, hospitality & leisure businesses, worth £32 million, and via a discretionary grants scheme worth £1.6 million;
  • During the lockdowns from November 2020, TDC paid £16 million in “mandatory” grants (LRSGs), £4 million in discretionary grants (ARGs) and £127,000 in wet pub payments;
  • The ARG scheme alone was enormously demanding - it has generated some 5500 emails over the last three months;
  • The new Restart Grants went live on 9 April 2021 and will be worth around £11 million, with another discretionary (ARG) scheme worth £750,000 which went live on 12 April 2021;
  • That’s around £70 million of grants and £22 million in rates relief to support businesses through Covid.


Ms Homer then set out the review options for the Panel to consider if the Members still wanted to pursue review work on this topic. These arte set put below:


OPTION 1 - The Panel could receive a presentation on ‘Our Response to COVID’ March 2020 - March 2021.


OPTION 2 - The Panel could undertake a ‘How did we do’ review of TDC initial response to the first lockdown March 2020 - June 2020 including continuation of service delivery and our engagement with Kent Resilience Forum as part of the emergency response.


OPTION 3 - The Panel could how we have managed the government’s COVID funding streams including Business Grants; Safely Opening High Streets; CEV funds.


OPTION 4 – The Panel could review our Community response during the pandemic specifically the work of the Community Hub and our engagement with the voluntary sector.


Councillor Lynda Piper proposed, Councillor Paul Moore seconded and Members agreed Option 4.


The Chair requested that at the next Panel meeting, the CEx could suggest the terms of reference and an approach to tackling Option 4. Members could still request support at a later stage to consider Option 2.