Blackpool Council will play a key role in supporting residents through the coronavirus outbreak – and ensuring the resort emerges as unscathed as possible at the end of the crisis.
That’s the message from council leader Simon Blackburn as town hall staff prepare for the challenge of helping vulnerable people, supporting businesses and keeping vital services running.
Nearly all council staff are now working from home apart from an emergency response team, with chiefs holding daily video conferences to discuss fast-changing strategies.
Financial reserves have been dipped into to the tune of £6m already, and the council is preparing to co-ordinate help ranging from administering the government’s business rate packages to delivering food parcels.
The local authority is considering changes to public transport including the suspension of the tram service, but is not expected to close parks or the Promenade.
Coun Blackburn said: “We normally try to make Blackpool as appealing as possible to visitors but now we are in a situation where we want to discourage people.
“By replacing the tram with the number one bus service we can concentrate on transport for people who do need to use the buses.
“There are so many places to access the Promenade that it would take too many resources to close it, likewise with parks.
“It’s just about encouraging people to distance yourself and follow the current advice.”
Pensioners can now travel free on buses at any time so they can reach foodstores, especially early in the morning when free travel was previously restricted..
The council is working with health authorities including Blackpool Victoria Hospital to identify residents with underlying health issues who have been told to self isolate for up to 12 weeks.
Coun Blackburn said: “Some may be able to do everything for themselves, but there will be others who do need help.
“But that’s our job to help the most vulnerable people in society, and we will already be providing care packages for many of them.
“Also we know the area, so it makes sense for us to deliver. So we are negotiating with the government on how we can do this for them.”
The council’s corona kindness helpline is also up and running with residents able to ask for help or offer help.
Blackpool Council is to receive just more than £6m from the government in the first wave of money to help support communities.
It has already taken this out of its £38m of reserves to enable a rapid response to the situation – knowing the cash is coming from government.
The council will also co-ordinate business rates relief with staff working round-the-clock to draw up lists of all those in the town eligible for assistance.
Coun Blackburn added: “We are working as fast as we can, but when something is announced on the steps of Downing Street it doesn’t mean we have all the information straight away.
“The impact this will have on Blackpool will be absolutely vast but we will need a base to rebuild from.
“We will need a Blackpool at the end of all this so within the tight confines of what we are allowed to do we need everyone to carry on as best they can.”
Residents should go to the council’s website at www.blackpool.gov.uk for information.
For corona kindness, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.