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Service pressures update - January 2022

Service pressures update - January 2022

An open letter from Leader of the Council Martin Gannon to Gateshead residents:

We place people at the heart of everything we do. We also aim to provide good public services to those who live, work, invest or visit the borough. However, like all areas of the country, we have been hugely impacted by the pandemic and Omicron. The pandemic has gone on far longer than any of us could have imagined, and it has taken over how we live our lives for almost two years now. Whilst we know it will have a lasting impact, it is also having a huge impact on our current day-to-day Council services.

Due to the transmissible nature of the Omicron variant, Covid-19 cases are currently very high. Thankfully, vaccination seems to be protecting most people from serious illness, but last week we saw over 1,000 cases confirmed in Gateshead in just one day, which is the single biggest daily increase we've seen throughout the whole pandemic. The high case rate is therefore placing huge pressure on the Council - not just because of increased demand for our support services, but because of unprecedented levels of staff absence.

We are facing staff absences just like those you read and hear about in the hospitality trades, the public transport system and within the NHS. The Council is no different, we have pockets of absences right across the organisation, including those in public facing roles, and those that support the most vulnerable in our communities, in areas such as social care.

Given this impact, it is necessary to redirect our remaining staff to priority areas, and to protect the support to those who need us most. This unfortunately does have a knock-on effect for other universal services we provide to you. 

I must be honest with you and warn you that there will continue to be some disruptions and delay to Council services. We must prioritise our most essential services and those which keep the most vulnerable groups safe and supported - and regrettably, this may affect the delivery of other services.

Whether it is our ability to respond to home repairs, your ability to call and speak to someone at the Council, book a repair, process a planning application and so on, services are likely to be impacted and subject to delay.

We recognise the frustration that residents and service users have with either not getting a prompt response to a request they've made, or the delay encountered in responding to you. What I can say is that we will respond as quickly as we possibly can. You can help our teams work more efficiently by using our online services wherever you can.

As your Council we want to celebrate success together, but also pull together in times of need and have an honest conversation when facing issues and difficulties, like we are today. 

Local Government is very different to national Government. We will always provide local, factual updates to you about Gateshead and the challenges we face, whereas national Government will provide more generic updates and statements about the country as a whole. As local councillors we are far better placed to understand what is happening locally and how best to deliver services for Gateshead.

As Leader of the Council, it is not easy to say that we cannot provide the level of service you have become accustomed to, but please be assured we will return to a better state as soon as we are able to.

I'm asking for your patience and understanding at this difficult time. Council employees are working extremely hard to minimise disruption and make sure everyone gets the help that they need as quickly as possible, so please be kind.

You can help keep our services running by keeping yourself and those around you safe. Get your vaccinations, use lateral flow tests regularly and if you feel unwell, stay at home and arrange a PCR test. 

Thank you for your support. We've all pulled together to overcome challenges like this before and we can do it again, but we need everyone to play their part.

Service pressures update - January 2022
13 January 2022

An open letter from Leader of the Council Martin Gannon to Gateshead residents:

We place people at the heart of everything we do. We also aim to provide good public services to those who live, work, invest or visit the borough. However, like all areas of the country, we have been hugely impacted by the pandemic and Omicron. The pandemic has gone on far longer than any of us could have imagined, and it has taken over how we live our lives for almost two years now. Whilst we know it will have a lasting impact, it is also having a huge impact on our current day-to-day Council services.

Due to the transmissible nature of the Omicron variant, Covid-19 cases are currently very high. Thankfully, vaccination seems to be protecting most people from serious illness, but last week we saw over 1,000 cases confirmed in Gateshead in just one day, which is the single biggest daily increase we've seen throughout the whole pandemic. The high case rate is therefore placing huge pressure on the Council - not just because of increased demand for our support services, but because of unprecedented levels of staff absence.

We are facing staff absences just like those you read and hear about in the hospitality trades, the public transport system and within the NHS. The Council is no different, we have pockets of absences right across the organisation, including those in public facing roles, and those that support the most vulnerable in our communities, in areas such as social care.

Given this impact, it is necessary to redirect our remaining staff to priority areas, and to protect the support to those who need us most. This unfortunately does have a knock-on effect for other universal services we provide to you. 

I must be honest with you and warn you that there will continue to be some disruptions and delay to Council services. We must prioritise our most essential services and those which keep the most vulnerable groups safe and supported - and regrettably, this may affect the delivery of other services.

Whether it is our ability to respond to home repairs, your ability to call and speak to someone at the Council, book a repair, process a planning application and so on, services are likely to be impacted and subject to delay.

We recognise the frustration that residents and service users have with either not getting a prompt response to a request they've made, or the delay encountered in responding to you. What I can say is that we will respond as quickly as we possibly can. You can help our teams work more efficiently by using our online services wherever you can.

As your Council we want to celebrate success together, but also pull together in times of need and have an honest conversation when facing issues and difficulties, like we are today. 

Local Government is very different to national Government. We will always provide local, factual updates to you about Gateshead and the challenges we face, whereas national Government will provide more generic updates and statements about the country as a whole. As local councillors we are far better placed to understand what is happening locally and how best to deliver services for Gateshead.

As Leader of the Council, it is not easy to say that we cannot provide the level of service you have become accustomed to, but please be assured we will return to a better state as soon as we are able to.

I'm asking for your patience and understanding at this difficult time. Council employees are working extremely hard to minimise disruption and make sure everyone gets the help that they need as quickly as possible, so please be kind.

You can help keep our services running by keeping yourself and those around you safe. Get your vaccinations, use lateral flow tests regularly and if you feel unwell, stay at home and arrange a PCR test. 

Thank you for your support. We've all pulled together to overcome challenges like this before and we can do it again, but we need everyone to play their part.

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