“At a recent Hertfordshire County Council scrutiny on the Covid 19 response countywide the CEOs of a number of voluntary organisations bemoaned the fact that their essential services are not included at the start of any emergency plan but have to fill gaps left by the statutory services.
Can you please confirm that WHBC does indeed have an emergency plan and that our vital voluntary sector is part of that plan from day one?”
The Leader asked Councillor Thomson (Executive Member, Governance, Public Health and Climate Change), to answer:-
The council is a category 1 responder under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and has a duty to plan for emergencies and this duty is undertaken in conjunction with the Local Resilience Forum. The duty placed on the Council also includes a requirement to have regard to the activities of voluntary organisations.
In answer to your question, I can confirm that the council does have an emergency plan and at present has many officers (and members) who are involved in work responding to and recovering from the covid19 pandemic. A volunteer people and assistance cell is working across the county to coordinate volunteers to help with covid 19.
It is a hallmark of modern emergency planning that the contributions of the voluntary sector are built into all emergency plans, along with mutual aid. Therefore, the use of volunteers and other organisations, working in partnership to respond to and recover from an emergency is a valued part of the council’s emergency planning process.
In fact, our Risk and Resilience Manager chairs a county wide working group, which included organisations such as the Red Cross, to develop a framework for the use of spontaneous volunteers in an emergency and a representative from the voluntary sector has a permanent seat at county wide strategic coordination group set up in response to the covid 19 pandemic.
Other examples of the inclusion of volunteers within our plan are:
• The Red Cross and Salvation Army are built into our reception centre planning, as are specialist organisations, for example the RSPCA and Cruse Bereavement Care
• We have radio system within the offices, that can be used by the Radio Amateurs Emergency Network (RAYNET) in the event of telecommunication outage during an emergency
• The four by four response group to help move people and supplies in severe weather
Councillor Musk in a supplementary question asked that it seems that all of our voluntary sectors are based County wide which are not working effectively as Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council would be. Have we got our local voluntary sector included in our plan and not County?
Councillor Thomson commented that it is important to remember the scale of the pandemic and what we are facing and it is absolutely right to have a County wide coordinated effect because otherwise you run the risk of each individual District and Borough doing their own thing. This could end up with vulnerable communities being missed. If there are specific organisations who feel they are not being represented or not involved then I would be happy to discuss that with you. There is a representative from most voluntary groups at every area of the LRF.