The Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Judith Blake CBE and Chief Executive, Leeds City Council, Tom Riordan CBE have given their latest update on the COVID-19 issues.

We wanted to once again reach out to thank all our partners for your incredible efforts to help the city respond as effectively as possible to Covid-19. By working together across our communities we are, first and foremost, protecting our most vulnerable residents while also working to support a strong economic recovery at the earliest opportunity.

Partners, communities and individual neighbourhoods continue to demonstrate an instinctiveness to support one another, which should be a source of huge pride to all us. There have been numerous offers of support at a local level but also regionally, nationally and internationally through our long-standing relationship with sister city Hangzhou.

We want to particularly thank those of you who, since our last email, worked with us to ensure the Temple Green testing centre could very quickly be brought into operation, complementing the recently increased capacity for testing at the Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust laboratory. Frontline workers from across the region are now being tested every day. Following local input the site was also redesigned in its final stages to provide additional resilience, so that when public transport services resume the centre and transport services can operate at the same time.

Within our own organisation we continue to work very differently but thanks to the flexibility of our own workforce, and the collaboration with you as our partners, we are delivering priority services alongside our Covid-19 community and business support. To give you some examples of what that looks like on the ground, during this time we have distributed over 4,500 food parcels, delivered 6,500 free school meals, registered 8,000 volunteers and collected 1.5 million black and green bins. Of course we’re supported in this by the incredible efforts of those working in schools, charities, faith organisations, neighbourhood networks, and care homes across the city.

As of the start of this week our business rates team have paid out £99.5 million of small business government grant money to 7,990 businesses. The team have worked seven days a week to this point and we are leading the way nationally having paid out one of the largest sums of money of any local authority. However, we want to continue to ensure we get the money out to eligible businesses. Can we ask you to reach out to your contacts and ask them to check to see if they are eligible. Any business that is eligible should submit their details to us through the council’s dedicated coronavirus business support webpage.

It is not possible to do real justice here to all the work that has been done by you as our partners, alongside our communities and our own organisation. However, we have tried to capture more of the activity around the city’s response to coronavirus in a paper for our Executive Board, which met remotely on Wednesday 22 April. If you would like to read that paper in more detail it can be found here.

Our focus now must be on preparations for a ‘new normal’ once lockdown restrictions begin to be lifted but with social distancing remaining in place. It will be here that our strong local partnerships will be more important than ever. We, of course, anticipate new national guidance but locally we already know we must create the capacity to provide safe travel, safe public spaces and the safe delivery of a wide range of council, health and other services in the city. We also need to rapidly understand how best we can work with partners to respond to the short-term poverty and inequalities, which the coronavirus outbreak has created and exposed. The spirit of collaboration we have seen to date in the city will therefore be just as important as we move into this next phases of the pandemic response.

We know many organisations have been affected by, and involved in the response to, financial hardship caused by measures put in place as a result of coronavirus.  We wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the fantastic work Kate and her team at Leeds Community Foundation have done in setting up Leeds Community Foundation Resilience Fund to respond to the needs of local people and community organisations by offering urgent financial support to cover core costs, volunteer expenses, staff costs and transport. Anything you can do to raise awareness of this fund would be hugely appreciated. We should also say, that LCF have been very much involved in supporting the food provision effort in Leeds, including through the successful repurposing of the Healthy Holidays fund.

Finally, can we again ask for your support in sharing the key public messages we are pushing out through the virtual newsroom and the LCC News Twitter account. It is vital we keep reiterating the current need for people to stay at home and stay safe, and that we reach the right groups as new advice and guidance is issued by Government. We’re also keen to keep sharing the message that we are all working as a team for Leeds, so we and many other organisations have been using #TogetherLeeds in our social media messages. If you want to receive the Council’s weekly update about the coronavirus response you can subscribe to do that by entering your details here.

Once again, thank you for all you are doing to support the city in its response to coronavirus and, crucially, in strengthening our potential for robust economic recovery as we enter the next phase of the pandemic. Our thoughts, of course, remain with all those individuals and families who have been affected by this dreadful virus.