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Coronavirus: Emergency powers 'a last resort', says Norfolk County Council leader




Emergency powers intended to help tackle new outbreaks of coronavirus will only be used as “a last resort”, Norfolk County Council’s leader says.

The measures are part of a further easing of the lockdown outlined by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

But, although the Government is urging us to begin returning to work, many local government staff serving West Norfolk will continue to work from their homes for the foreseeable future.

Norfolk County Council headquarters (3027764)
Norfolk County Council headquarters (3027764)

During a media briefing on Friday, Mr Johnson announced that local authorities will be given emergency powers to close premises and outdoor spaces, as well as stop public events from taking place, in order to control any potential new outbreaks of the virus.

Norfolk County Council officials say they are expecting more details of exactly what they will be able to do if there is a fresh spike of the infection later this week.

But the authority’s leader, Andrew Proctor, has welcomed the plans, which he says will still need to be part of a broader public effort to defeat the disease.

He said: “Closures will always be a last resort and these powers will only be used if they are needed to protect the people of Norfolk.

“We are awaiting details on how and when they can be applied.

“Cases of coronavirus in Norfolk remain low and we want to keep them that way.

“The best way we can do that is by continuing to wash our hands, keeping our distance and wearing face coverings in shops and on public transport.

“It’s really important that people isolate and book a test if they have symptoms.

“This will help us to understand what’s happening in Norfolk so that we can contain the spread of the virus.

“We all need to play our part to protect ourselves, protect others and protect Norfolk.”

Mr Johnson also confirmed that employers would be encouraged to bring staff who have been working from home during lockdown back into the workplace from the beginning of August, subject to their premises being Covid secure.

The county council says that around 85 per cent of its staff have been working from their homes during the lockdown period, though around 900 have worked from one of the authority’s buildings over the past week.

And Tom McCabe, the authority’s head of paid service, said the systems that had enabled workers to do their jobs at home will continue to be into next year, while the virus remains in circulation.

He said: “We have put a number of measures in place to ensure our staff can work from home effectively.

“First and foremost we want to look after everyone’s wellbeing and we have measures in to help our staff feel fully supported.

“We have also reviewed our flexible working to allow staff with children or dependants to arrange their working day accordingly and supplied home working equipment to allow our staff to work from home.”

Meanwhile, West Norfolk Council says individual arrangements will be made for how its workers do their jobs from the beginning of August.

A spokesman said yesterday: “All employees who have been shielding are being contacted by their manager to discuss arrangements for them post August 1.

“Arrangements will be made individually, depending on the employee’s role, whether they are able to work from home, and any other personal circumstances that need to be taken into consideration.

“Much work has been undertaken to ensure that council workplaces are COVID19 safe, and if employees are returning to work they will be doing so in line with our risk assessments.

“Some employees may continue to work predominantly from home, others may return to the office on a rota basis, others will return to operational roles in accordance with our safe working practices.”


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