Read the Leader of Medway Council's latest message to residents.
Much has changed in the short period since my last message. We’ve seen relaxations in the lockdown with people starting to get back to work, children returning to primary schools and people enjoying the opportunity to meet with a small number of friends and loved ones outside. For my part it was marvellous to be able to see my newest granddaughter Rose again, at two metres range rather than through video calls!
It’s been wonderful to see so many people enjoying our many parks and green spaces during this warm spell too. However, COVID-19 is still present and it is more important than ever before, that we don’t become complacent and forget those all important messages about social distancing and handwashing to help prevent a more deadly second wave later this summer.
Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of our residents
For our part, our focus now is on working to safely get Medway as fully open as is possible and practicable whilst ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all our residents. It is critical to get our economy moving again, to get people back into work and earning salaries, our shops open and supporting children and students back into education.
Our priority has been to work with local schools to ensure they could open safely this week for primary school children. Your local schools have been working tirelessly over the last three weeks to create safe spaces for children to return and we have worked closely with head teachers across Medway to ensure that measures are in place so families can send their children back with confidence. Each school has made their own arrangements and we are delighted that from the end of next week 90% of primary schools in Medway will be open. Although we are not yet able to reopen Medway’s Children and Family Hubs, the Early Help team which runs them has been sending activity packs to some of Medway’s youngest residents and providing a helpful advice phone line for those needing support at this difficult time.
We want to see our high streets thriving again
As our shops and high streets are gradually able to reopen over the next month another of our priorities is to make sure we can welcome people back to our high streets with the confidence that they can shop safely. It has never been more important to support our local shops as many of them have taken a huge hit as a result of COVID-19 and we want to see our high streets thriving again.
We are working with local retailers and groups to plan how best to do this and we will be using funding given to us by central government to put in place a range of practical safety measures including new signs, street markings and temporary barriers to ensure Medway’s high streets are ready for when businesses are able to open and trade safely. I hope you will take the opportunity to come back to the high streets and it will be for all of us to show the Medway spirit and take care to look after others by observing social distancing rules as well as being kind and patient.
Government funding for active travel
Following increased levels of walking and cycling across the UK during the pandemic, the government has made funding available to councils to implement measures that will help encourage more people to choose alternatives to public transport such as walking and cycling when they need to travel, making healthier habits easier and helping make sure the road, bus and rail networks are ready to respond to future increases in demand.
Highways improvement works
In the meantime our Highways team has taken the opportunity of the quieter roads during lockdown to progress a huge number of improvement works. Since Monday, 23 March the team has repaired 1,602 road defects, including potholes, fixed 492 footway defects, including safety repairs, and renewed 10,668 metres of road lines, including double yellow lines, to ensure motorists continue to park safely on Medway’s roads.
We hope to be opening other facilities in due course and we have a team of people working on the best ways to do this, ensuring that we can observe government guidelines and help keep people safe.
Virtual Dickens 150
Sadly not all facilities will be able to reopen this year. We announced last week that we’ve had to take the hard decision not to open our popular pools at The Strand this summer as it would be difficult to put social distancing measures in place to help keep residents safe and stop the virus from spreading. The people of Medway have fully backed our decision in your responses to our announcement and I thank you for your understanding. Likewise our play parks remain closed - please ensure any young children do not break through and use them as it is the easiest way to spread the virus.
I am especially saddened not to be able to bring you our usual line up of festivals and events this summer. Next week would have been our special anniversary Dickens Festival where we would have commemorated 150 years since the death of our most famous local author. So we’ve been creative and moved the festival online and you can enjoy videos, quizzes, talks, virtual trails and lots more on our website.
Thanking our public health colleagues
Just as our NHS colleagues are working heroically to help save lives through this pandemic and the care being given by our social workers to our most vulnerable is inspiring, the council’s Public Health team has also been doing some amazing work to help protect local people and minimise the spread of the virus. They have been issuing advice and guidance to the public and businesses alike, working with schools to implement measures to keep children and staff safe and have also run our community hub which has provided the equivalent of more than 100,000 meals for our most vulnerable residents, as well as accessing shopping, befriending and prescription collection services. They now have the important responsibility of leading on the local response as part of the new test and trace system helping to manage and control any local outbreaks. I’ll be providing more information on that in future updates.
National Volunteers Week
A critical part of the successful work being achieved in our communities by our Public Health team has been working with many local voluntary organisations and in this National Volunteers Week I’d like to pay a special tribute to the many people in Medway who have come forward during this pandemic to help others in their community. Whether it was a bit of shopping for a neighbour or friend or working for one of our many wonderful local charities, so many people have gone the extra mile demonstrating the caring spirit of Medway people. On behalf of Medway Council I’d like to say a special thank you to all this week and in particular to our partners at Medway Voluntary Action who celebrate their 30th anniversary this year. If you think you’d like to volunteer, please do take a look at their website or get in touch with them.
I hope to bring you more news shortly about the latest developments in Medway but for the time being please take care of yourselves and your loved ones, stay alert and stay safe.
Cllr Alan Jarrett
Leader of Medway Council