The Rt Hon Geoffrey Cox QC, Member of Parliament for Torridge and West Devon, met via conference call with senior representatives from Torridge District Council – Steve Hearse, Strategic Manager (Resources), Cllr Ken James, Leader, and Cllr Claire Hodson Deputy Leader on Thursday 2 April 2020 to discuss the action being taken locally to support those affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.
The discussions were wide ranging but focused primarily on the Council’s ongoing actions to assist those residents identified as clinically vulnerable and isolating in the Torridge area. There was some concern regarding those who have not yet contacted the national helpline and are therefore not currently being assisted by central government through the Council, and to the broader group of elderly and at risk people in the area. Currently out of a total of 86 families in Torridge identified as needing food supplies via the national supply chain only 10 are being directly assisted by the Council under the clinically vulnerable grouping.
The MP was encouraged to hear of the work being done to collate and promote the involvement of community groups and parish councils in bringing help to people locally. Collated information is now being shared across Torridge Council, Parish and Devon County Council websites and social media platforms. The need for national and local government to work together was recognised, and as a result it was agreed that the Council would stay closely in touch with the MP and his casework team as the current situation develops.
Mr Cox highlighted that he had already raised a number of issues and queries with his colleagues in Westminster on behalf of the many individuals and businesses who are contacting his office each day, and he is maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the Government about all aspects of the pandemic.
With reference to the administration of financial relief to businesses in Torridge, the Council advised that they had received around 1,800 of the expected 2,400 forms from businesses eligible for the £10k or £25k grants. These were now being validated and processed and would be helped by a team of Council Officers, who have agreed to work through the weekend to try and ensure that as many businesses as possible would receive the money prior to the Easter break. In this respect the Council are urging anyone that has already submitted their form not to chase progress as this will only detract from the team’s efforts to process the payments.
Finally, the reopening of Appledore Shipyard was discussed. Mr Cox advised that while coronavirus had unfortunately and inevitably affected the efforts to reopen the yard, he was still hopeful of a positive outcome.
Speaking after the meeting, Geoffrey Cox said:
“I was encouraged by the progress to date of the Council in the vital tasks the government has set it in bringing relief to local businesses, some £24 million in Torridge alone, and to those who are vulnerable and at risk from Covid-19. We resolved to work closely together in tackling its suppression and the economic consequences in Torridge.”
Leader of the Council – Councillor Ken James said:
“We appreciate the time and focus our MP gave to this meeting in what has been a fast moving and complete transformation of the economic landscape in Torridge affecting all of our private lives as well. It has been great to report how communities have been supporting each other and how the Council has been doing its best to support local individuals and businesses through the measures announced by central government. I would take this opportunity to thank all of our officers for the efforts they are making to support the community as well – from those collecting our refuse to those working this weekend to process payments – a great team effort.”