The last time Stone Town Council members met in their Station Road council chamber was in March before the country went into lockdown.
And the council’s last general purposes committee meeting took place on March 24 – the day after the Government announced lockdown measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
The physical meeting was cancelled but arrangements were swiftly put in place to allow councillors to hold a virtual session, with voting by email and items discussed including a community helpline to support the town’s most vulnerable residents during the pandemic.
Now Stone Town Council is preparing to hold its next virtual general purposes committee meeting on July 7. Proceedings will be live streamed on YouTube from 7pm for residents to watch.
Items on the July agenda include considering an application for a grant for the new Stone Heritage Centre under the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Programme. There will also be reports from committees and sub-committees on their response to Covid-19 and moving forward.
The two community centres managed by the town council – Stone Station and the Frank Jordan Centre – have been closed to the public throughout the lockdown. But maintenance and upgrade work has been taking place and the council is now looking ahead to when the centres can reopen.
Stone Community Hub has continued to operate behind closed doors at the Frank Jordan Centre in Lichfield Street however, to keep residents in need supplied with food parcels.
A report to the July council meeting said: “A decision will be required as to when a re-opening will be feasible, following Government advice that community centres are able to re-open subject to guidelines and their specific situations from 4th July.
“The earliest opening date for the two centres is early August, subject to completion of scheduled works, making the centres Covid-secure and ensuring that any users have produced acceptable risk assessments.
“Although the Frank Jordan Centre has been closed to the public since the start of lockdown, Stone Town Council agreed to Stone Community Hub continuing to operate its food bank and allowed a temporary expansion into the St Michael’s Suite without additional rental charge.
"This has provided invaluable community support as there has been a 10-fold increase in demand for food parcels from those out of work and unable to access immediate financial help.
“Stone Community Hub believe that demand for food parcels is likely to increase further should more unemployment result from the wind-down of the furlough initiative.”