Council claims Covid-19 recovery plan is ‘streets ahead’ of other Norfolk authorities

Carl Smith, leader of the council, said the borough's recovery plans were 'by far the best' out of N

Carl Smith, leader of the council, said the borough's recovery plans were 'by far the best' out of Norfolk's district councils. Picture: James Bass /Ella Wilkinson - Credit: James Bass/Ella Wilkinson

Councillors in Great Yarmouth have given themselves a pat on the back over their response to coronavirus - claiming their recovery plan is “streets ahead” of others around the county.

Shelia Oxtoby, the council's chief executive, helping organise supplies for community foodbanks duri

Shelia Oxtoby, the council's chief executive, helping organise supplies for community foodbanks during the pandemic. PHOTO: GY Borough Council - Credit: Archant

In a meeting of Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s policy and resources committee held on Tuesday, councillors discussed the borough’s response to the pandemic and how to bounce back going forward. This was covered in a Pathway to Recovery report prepared by council chief executive Sheila Oxtoby.

According to leader Carl Smith, the plans were “by far the best” across Norfolk.

He said: “Sheila and I presented a version of this report to a collection of Norfolk MPs two weeks ago. All districts were invited along to give a case for their recovery.

“I’m not speaking out of turn here, but I can assure you that ours was the best presentation by far out of the five that were offered during that call.”

Councillor Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Ella Wilkinson

Councillor Trevor Wainwright, leader of the Labour group in Great Yarmouth. Picture: Ella Wilkinson - Credit: Archant

Labour leader Trevor Wainwright agreed. He said: “A huge amount of work has gone into our recovery plan.“I do know that compared to other councils, we are streets ahead - certainly of any of the Norfolk councils anyway.

“The way we got the grants out to businesses was exceptional and people had the money in their bank within two days.”

Ms Oxtoby said the councils’s response had been “great” - that officers had worked with community groups to reach out to vulnerable people, and that “nothing more could have been done” in getting grants out to eligible businesses.

Likewise, borough councillor Graham Plant suggested that businesses had survived the pandemic because of the council.

Great Yarmouth mayor Michael Jeal, chief executive Sheila Oxtoby and council leader Carl Smith join

Great Yarmouth mayor Michael Jeal, chief executive Sheila Oxtoby and council leader Carl Smith join emergency service teams for the weekly Clap for Carers at the Town Hall during lockdown. PHOTO: Great Yarmouth Borough Council - Credit: Archant

He said: “The way you handled the grants from government - in terms of getting them out within an early three week period - people were really grateful for.

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“If businesses have survived, it will be because of the council’s efforts and everything you’ve put in to make that happen.”

Councillor Paul Wells also noted that the way the authority had kept an eye on “strategic investment” while the pandemic was in full swing was “particularly impressive”.

But there were concerns raised by others attending the meeting.

Great Yarmouth is getting busier as lockdown is eased, but there are fewer options should nature cal

Great Yarmouth is getting busier as lockdown is eased, but there are fewer options should nature call with both sets of toilets in Market Gates currently closed. The toilets in The Conge are open Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant

Tony Wright asked what would happen to homeless people who would be “turfed out of bed and breakfasts” once government funding dries up.

But Mr Smith said the council had got 41 rough sleepers off the streets and prevented a further 60 single people from becoming homeless over the course of lockdown.

He added: “Now we know we can stop homelessness, we can do it again.”

Great Yarmouth is getting busier as lockdown is eased, but there are fewer options should nature cal

Great Yarmouth is getting busier as lockdown is eased, but there are fewer options should nature call with both sets of toilets in Market Gates currently closed. The toilets in The Conge are open Pictures: BRITTANY WOODMAN - Credit: Archant