‘Magnificent’ – the reaction from Dorset Council staff and councillors to the Covid 19 pandemic, according to authority leader Cllr Spencer Flower.

“There is no doubt in my mind, and I’m aware this is shared across the chamber, that the response from Dorset Council officers to this crisis has been absolutely magnificent,” he said.

But he then went on to warn at an online Cabinet meeting that the crisis had yet to pass and would continue to cause difficulties for the county for the foreseeable future.

“It is well documented the effect the crisis is having on our finances and while we have received some Government support more support will be needed,” said Cllr Flower.

Council chief executive Matt Prosser added his thanks to his staff and to the residents, communities and businesses of the county for their response.

He also thanked partner organisations, town and parish councils and those in the voluntary sector: “Their response has been impressive and our volunteers have all been amazing. We are still in the position of having more volunteers than there is work on the ground, but I’m grateful to be in that position, and have the support of 1,700 residents if needed.”

He said that a week before lockdown work started on arranging for 2,500 council staff to work from home, with a further 2,000 front line staff working with social distancing methods, or PPE.

“This was a huge, but necessary effort,” he said.

Mr Prosser said that in February the council had agreed a strategic plan for the authority which set out Dorset Council’s vision of supporting the county to be ‘a great place to live, work and visit’.

He said that in the response to Covid 19 this message was no longer appropriate and the authority had now amended this to principles of ‘working to maintain critical services, sustain care, and support the vulnerable and the economy.’

He said that many would be surprised to learn that in the early days of the crisis the council got its information, like everyone else, by listening to the Government’s daily briefings on the news and then shaping the council’s response, often at all hours of the day and for many staff, seven days a week.

“We are still in crisis mode and for some groups this will carry on long after the lockdown finishes…those who are shielded; those who carry the physical, mental and emotional burden of having been in lockdown; also those families who have lost individuals to Covid 19,” he said.

Mr Prosser said the council was now preparing to re-set its activities and do what it could to help the community in the short, medium and long term.