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Coronavirus West Berkshire: Residents' views of pandemic released

Council survey results will form part of recovery plan for the district

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886633

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Residents’ views on the impact of Covid-19 on West Berkshire have been revealed and will help form part of a recovery plan for the district. 

West Berkshire Council surveyed residents in May to understand how communities felt about the impact of Covid-19 on their health, finances and the environment.

Almost 3,300 residents from across the district responded and the council has used the preliminary data to inform its Recovery Strategy, which is being considered by its executive on July 16.

Questions ranged from  health and wellbeing to the economic and social impact of Covid-19. The survey also asked respondents whether they had volunteered in their community as a result of the pandemic, as well as whether they intended to in the future.

Among the key findings were that 31.9 per cent had reported a fall in household income, with 61.2 per cent saying it was higher. 

15.3 per cent believed that someone in their household has been infected with Covid-19. And 18 per cent of respondents reported high or very high anxiety levels the days before they completed the survey.

In terms of the local economy 54.1 per cent indicated they intended to visit local high streets the same amount as before Covid-19 when able to do so, 8.1 per cent answered more and 1.5 per cent much more. 

However, 21.1 per cent responded less and 9.7 per cent much less. 

Asked how often they used West Berkshire businesses, either online or visiting, during the pandemic compared to before it, 33.4 per cent said about the same. 

Much more came in at 8.8 per cent and more at 25.9 per cent, while 15.5 per cent said less and 10.9 per cent replied much less.

But when asked whether the pandemic had made them more likely to support local businesses in the future, 64.4 per cent said yes and 12.1 per cent said no. 

Environmentally, 46.9 per cent of respondents expressed an intention to travel on foot more as a result of Covid-19, with 41.3 per cent answering about the same. 

On car travel, 37.2 per cent of respondents said they would travel by car either less or much less over the next six months compared to the previous year, while 28.7 per cent felt that the pandemic would enable them to help the district’s aspirations of becoming carbon neutral.

Awareness of the Community Support Hub was fairly high, at 72 per cent, and 70.8 per cent said they have volunteered during the pandemic with 78.2 per cent of then intending to continue.

On the council's response to to the pandemic, 86.5 per cent responded either excellent, good or fair – although a breakdown was not included – 8.8 per cent declined to answer with 4.7 per cent judging it to be poor.

Almost all respondents who were able to work from home intend to continue to do so and even more in the future.

This survey was the first of a series of resident engagement exercises planned by the council as part of its Covid-19 recovery work.

Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said: “Covid-19 has changed so much about daily life for all of us here in West Berkshire and we were keen to survey residents so that we could understand what their individual experiences have been.

“Some of the things we’ve been told by residents are very positive, particularly around their appetite to volunteer, help others in the community and to support local businesses on the high street.

“Other responses are quite worrying, particularly with a third of those surveyed reporting a fall in household income. Through our recovery work, we will look at how we can get those who have been most affected back on their feet and will offer all the support we can.

“We’re also very aware that some groups who are particularly vulnerable to the impact of Covid-19, such as young people and those from the BAMER community, are under-represented among the respondents and we have employed a new equality and diversity officer to look at how we can engage them more effectively.

“We would like to thank everyone who responded and we look forward to working with the community to secure a strong local recovery.”

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