We have been asked by the National Association of Local Council’s to apply for this year’s Covid-19 themed STAR awards in recognition of our work in supporting the community during the pandemic. The Mayor, Cllr Martin Gregory, said “We are delighted that the Councils efforts have been nationally recognised in this way and we hope that we are successfully shortlisted. I would like to thank every volunteer, Councillor, resident, and member of staff for their outstanding contributions to the Town. We will hear in July, but to even be asked is an honour in itself”.
Below is our submission for the NALC Star Awards 2021.
Looe has a population of 5.5k, 15 Councillors, 12 members of staff of whom only 2 are full time, and is a coastal, rural, and isolated Town reliant on tourism with the nearest City over 40 minutes away. The population is aging with over 50% 65 or over and we have three areas which rank in the top 3% of deprivation in the UK.
When the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns first started in March 2020, Looe Town Council (LTC) rose to the challenge and immediately organised a network of over 190 volunteers, working with key organisations within the Town, to support those in need and the most vulnerable in the community – extending beyond its own parish boundaries and supporting families and individuals in neighbouring, smaller parishes.
The rapidity of the Council’s response meant that LTC were recognised as leaders in the response to the pandemic in Cornwall, establishing effective communication and support networks by creating a system of ‘street aunties and uncles’ using technology and cloud-based phones through our volunteer network. LTC were asked to share best practice and our innovative solutions with Cornwall’s unitary authority and key agencies This was then replicated in other Towns within the Duchy. In addition, we were the first Council in Cornwall to reopen public conveniences and share risk assessments and methods with other Towns.
LTC immediately set up new active communication channels on social media, paper-based newsletters, posters, banners, press and calls to action to both recruit volunteers and identify support needs. Twice a week the Council held online communication sessions with members of the community to develop additional services and communication methods from their feedback, ensuring that the community were at the heart of the service.
The Council set up ‘Looe Community Cupboard’ providing key essentials such as baby milk, clothes, sanitary products, deodorant, flour, etc free of charge for those in need. We created a hardship fund to support individuals who needed additional financial support for a variety of reasons including redundancy. LTC’s devolved service was the only library in Cornwall operating during the first lockdown with volunteer drivers delivering books to families and care homes. From March to October alone our support and befriending helplines took over 1340 calls, delivered over 340 prescriptions and helped over 400 vulnerable people with a range of essential services on a weekly basis, including mental health and suicide issues which were actioned by a bespoke escalation team from qualified councillors and volunteers.
To ensure that residents felt a sense of normality LTC also created virtual online events and contact to celebrate VJ day, Remembrance Sunday, and Christmas – alongside other key events within the Town. Working with the 4 major Town organisations, the British Legion and Looe Lions, the Town celebrated and interacted on social media platforms – Santa even managed a socially distanced tour of Looe and the surrounding areas and our Mayor held an online lantern making workshop. We created ‘Looe secret Santa’ which meant that every child aged 11 or under received a present and provided hampers for those residents most in need.
During this time we also commissioned and delivered a new website for the Town Council (https://looetowncouncil.gov.uk/), moved our IT systems completely to the cloud, created a new Visit Looe brand and website to support our business community (https://www.visitlooe.co.uk/), restructured the officer and staff team including recruitment and training, co-opted and inducted 7 new councillors and revised our standing orders and financial regulations amongst other internal progression. Our work was also recognised formally by the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall – receiving two letters of thanks for our work.