Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
A council leader has warned that the covid situation is “quickly becoming dire”
Huw David, leader of Bridgend County Borough Council (BCBC) said front-line staff is being redeployed and that key council services are at risk because of rising cases in the area.
Bridgend County Borough recently became the third-highest area in Wales for positive coronavirus cases with a rate of around 700 cases per 100,000.
Cllr David said the area has gone from being “one of the most improved local authorities in Wales” to “the third-highest area for positive cases of Covid-19 in the country”.
During a meeting held today, he told councillors: “Staff are already working flat out to provide vital services in very difficult circumstances.
“Any further reduction in our workforce will have a major impact on or ability to do so.”
Due to pressures on council staff, the local authority is working to identify which services will need to be “cut back and reduced”.
“These are definitions of emergency as defined by the Civil Contingencies Act and this is the first time in its history that this council has had to seriously consider such radical actions.
“This clearly indicates the level of crisis that we are in the process of responding to.”
According to Cllr David, high numbers of coronavirus cases have forced a comprehensive school, a special school and six primary schools in the area to close earlier than planned.
The council’s deputy mayor Cllr John Spanswick was recently hospitalised with Covid-19 but has since been discharged from the Princess of Wales Hospital and is recovering at home.
Cllr David said: “Following a positive test for coronavirus, John became very ill and was admitted to intensive care after developing pneumonia.”
The leader read a statement written by Cllr Spanswick on Facebook: “Just over two weeks ago, I tested positive for covid and for the next week I curled up and slept.
“One week later, unable to breathe properly, I was admitted to the Princess of Wales Hospital and that’s where our amazing NHS staff took over and gave me the best treatment I could ever have wished for.
“Several scary moments thinking, I may not be coming home, I have been one of the very lucky ones.
“The reason for this post is to give the biggest shout-out possible to all of the staff working in the hospital who turn up each day to battle with this dreaded covid and to all of the patients who desperately need their help.
“Most of the staff have had Covid themselves yet they still turn up for work to make a difference in what are now very difficult circumstances.
“I will never be able to thank all of the NHS enough for the care and treatment they’ve given me but they are the true heroes of our country.
“We all need now to play our part to avoid covid spreading any more rapidly.”
Cllr David wished Mr Spanswick well in his recovery at home and said “he is right in warning that the situation is quickly becoming dire”.
“Ultimately, it is up to us as residents of the county borough to determine what happens next and whether it will become necessary for further drastic measures to take place locally or not.
“We need everyone to think about the possible consequences of their actions and to follow the rules on wearing a mask, socially distancing, washing hands and following the guidance.”
Councillor Nicole Burnett, cabinet member for social services and early help, said social services are at risk in Bridgend County Borough due to “an increase in staff absences either because of Covid-19 or due to the need to self isolate”.
Cllr Burnett said staff numbers are “tight” among internal and private domiciliary care providers and council staff with previous experience of working in sectors such as direct care services are being redeployed.
As part of this, staff are also being given basic training to enable them to deliver front-line services.
“Any further reduction in that workforce may mean that they are unable to meet all care and support plan requirements,” said Cllr Burnett.
She said there is capacity in residential, nursing homes and the council’s children’s residential care service but “the situation remains similarly fragile”.
To tackle the issue, Cllr Burnett said “essential services are being regularly reviewed, prioritised and coordinated”.
Prioritised areas include safeguarding, care for the most vulnerable, mental health assessments, case management for vulnerable children, residential care and fostering services.
Cllr Burnett said the local authority has “an extremely experienced director and senior management team in place” to deal with the issue.
“I am confident that the authority is in safe hands.
“Please don’t be tempted just to pop-in for five minutes while delivering your presents this year. Just follow the rules so we can get out of this.”
Dhanisha Patel, cabinet member for wellbeing and future generations, said the council’s enforcement officers are visiting local premises “to ensure that they are meeting their responsibilities to both customers and staff whilst we are in a pandemic”.
As of Wednesday December 16, 23 businesses in Bridgend County Borough have been issued improvement notices for breaching coronavirus guidelines while three have been temporarily closed.
According to Cllr Patel, “the majority” of businesses that have been given improvement notices have fully complied with rules thereafter, while none have been closed permanently.
Deputy council leader Hywel Williams said to keep waste collectors safe, the council is asking households where a member is showing coronavirus symptoms to make sure any tissues, wet wipes or kitchen roll is “double-bagged and set aside for 72 hours”.
The waste can then be placed in a household rubbish bag.