Personally Speaking from Stoke-on-Trent City Council leader Abi Brown, Labour group leader Mohammed Pervez and City Independents group leader Ann James

Published: Monday, 23rd March 2020

It’s time to unite to support our communities.

We’re living in unprecedented times. It’s a phrase that makes you pause and soberly reflect at the scale of the coronavirus outbreak, as its impact continues to be felt in all four corners of the world.

It’s a time when we all need to support one another, remain calm and show compassion. It’s a time to focus on communities and take heed of Stoke-on-Trent’s motto – Vis Unitas Fortior: united strength is stronger.

As such, we – the three leaders of the Conservatives, City Independents and Labour groups on the city council – have taken the combined step to come together to collectively call for people to show the public spiritedness that Stoke-on-Trent residents are famously known for.

These are testing times for our city. Precautionary steps have been taken to reduce council services so that care for the most vulnerable children and young people and adults can continue to be prioritised. The vast majority of the 4,600 employees who work at the council are residents of the communities that they serve, and steps continue to be taken to ensure these staff are safe and well to carry out this work. We also thank them hugely for their incredible hard work as the situation has escalated like we’ve never seen before.

It is more important than ever to be kind, compassionate and caring. We are group leaders of 44 local councillors who work hard to champion the communities you live in and to give a voice to you and each of the six towns and many neighbourhoods across Stoke-on-Trent. We represent 250,000 residents.

What the coronavirus has already shown us is that to get through this, we need to act as one community, a city-wide community. Already through the pages of the Sentinel, we are hearing how businesses are diversifying, restaurants are making home deliveries to people who are self-isolating, nightclubs are hosting ‘virtual’ gigs, supermarkets are making dedicated times available for older people to shop. People are volunteering their time to help their neighbours.

We need people to come together, to inspire each other and to give hope. For example, one local residents’ association has a Facebook group where people on every street in the ward are encouraged to nominate a person to act as a point of contact, to check on and support each other while another group has set up online support for parents across the city and others are offering to help those who are self-isolating. It’s this community spirit that we all need, to get through the difficult times that we face. Our heartfelt thanks go to all these groups as well as all those community and voluntary sector organisations supporting residents.

This is also time for a message of hope. We will get through this together. A lot of hard work is taking place behind the scenes at the council and across the public sector. We have contingency plans in place. We just need to ensure that we all remain calm and be kind.

We urge people not to panic buy. There is no need to do this, please stop it. It is important that every one of us follows the national public health advice. Please also make sure that you take the precautionary steps that we are being advised to follow. Too many people don’t seem to be following social distancing guidance and they must to stop the spread of this virus. Make sure you keep washing your hands carefully for at least 20 seconds and if you sneeze, catch it, bin it and kill it.

If you have coronavirus symptoms, please stay at home – this means if you have a high temperature where you feel hot to touch on your chest or your back, or if you have a new continuous cough – this means a cough for more than an hour or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours. Do not go to a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital. Use the 111 online coronavirus service to find out what to do: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

While face-to-face council services are reducing at this time, with the council, many services can still be accessed online, through www.stoke.gov.uk, the MyStoke App or through our social media channels. Instead of visiting a library, you can access e-books or audio books via online services. You can make payments, inform us of changes in circumstances or make an application for council housing online.

There are rapidly changing times and we pledge that we will continue to do all that we can for the good of the residents in our communities and work to continue to provide important public services. Please let us all stay safe, healthy and work together to look out for each other at this time.