How Great Yarmouth’s councillors are helping their communities from home
PUBLISHED: 08:51 22 April 2020 | UPDATED: 11:01 22 April 2020
Ella Wilkinson/Archant/Norfolk Conservatives/James Bass
Great Yarmouth’s councillors may be stuck behind doors - but they’re still finding ways to help their constituents through the coronavirus crisis.
All, however, are feeling the pangs of self-isolation and the difficulties of moving an entire council apparatus online.
Carl Smith, Bradwell North
Leader Carl Smith said: “There’s no denying that life for us all is so different to what it was four weeks ago.
“We’ve been trying to get technology in place to have council meetings online so that we can regain some semblance of normality.
“On an individual level, as well as volunteering, I have been delivering supplies to members of the Gorleston Conservative Club - of which the average age is 60+ - and trying to help them in any way I can.”
He added that he had been calling up ward members who “just needed a chat”, and expressed surprise that he actually had one call from someone asking if he was okay.
Trevor Wainwright, Magdalen
Leader of the Labour Group Trevor Wainwright said: “Councillors are having to adjust to new ways of working.
“I have been busy communicating via e-mail and telephone with residents and businesses - giving advice and help on issues that are affecting them.
“I’ve also been in touch with Rev Matthew Price at our Local Food Bank on the Magdalen Estate, and giving help when needed.”
Mr Wainwright added that he wanted to thank everyone in the borough for following government advice to stay at home and protect lives.
Mike Smith-Clare, Central and Northgate
According to Mr Smith-Clare, social media is proving essential for communication with the community.
He said: “I’m a member of various groups including Great Yarmouth Foodbank Plus and GYNET.
“I’m also volunteering through Voluntary Norfolk and the council, and distributing prescribed medication to residents across my wards.
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“There is also a FareShare food hub which is using donations and unwanted councillor allowances to bring in weekly supplies to Great Yarmouth’s foodbanks.”
Reassuring his constituents, he said: “This is a real rollercoaster of emotions. But as we enter a new week, please let me know how you’re getting on. Remember that together we can get through this.”
Adrian Thompson, Fleggburgh
For Mr Thompson’s ward, a 60-volunteer strong WhatsApp group is helping with “anything and everything” vulnerable residents might need.
He said: “The Filby and District Community Help Group has been set up to assist with prescription delivery, dog walking and other odd jobs.
“At Filby Post Office we’ve had a donation box to help with community responses to the crisis. So far people have offered £1100.”
He explained that “all people had to do was ring him at the post office” and help would be on its way.
“A problem shared is a problem halved”, he said.
Penny Carpenter, Caister North
Ms Carpenter had harsh words for social isolation, which she said was “damning on the soul”.
But she said she is getting used to holding online meetings and dealing with casework at home.
She said: “I am volunteering with Voluntary Norfolk and plan to help the amazing team at GYBC.
“I’ve been watching in admiration as communities come together, and hope we come out of this as kinder and compassionate people.”
Adrian Myers, Lothingland
Independent councillor Mr Myers said that during lockdown he has been determined “to carry out the duty of representing his ward” through phone calls, texts and emails.
He said: “Although meetings such as parish and full councils are suspended, matters relating to these bodies continue to arise and must be addressed.”
But he also said that while the council has acted swiftly on advice and councillors have “admirably taken on unfamiliar roles”, there would be “incriminating reflections of how central government has handled this pandemic in the future”.
He also said that a “common sense” rather than “rigid, draconian” approach would be the best way to keep communities physically and mentally healthy during this time.
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