North Devon Council’s chief executive has warned services may be affected if staff have to stay at home because of the coronavirus.

In a statement issued today (Friday, March 13), Ken Miles said an increase in staff absence was expected as anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms self-isolates.

Mr Miles said: 'The latest guidance from the government as it moves into the 'delay' phase of the coronavirus pandemic response is that if an individual has a new fever or a continuous cough, they should self-isolate.

'As a responsible employer, we have passed on that advice to all employees of the council. Given the fact that we are still in the season where colds and normal flu are common place, I am anticipating that a precautionary approach will be adopted by many people and so I am also anticipating that the absence rate amongst our staff will now increase.

'Whilst I am sure that there will be some people reading this who will be eager to make some comment along the lines of 'typical council workers', I would stress that this is a situation that is unprecedented in recent times and that any employer will also be anticipating something similar and making plans to try to deal with this.'

Mr Miles said the council was keen to continue delivering services, but added: 'However, as the chief executive of the council, I have to realise that if the situation gets worse, or if staff do follow the government guidelines, it is going to have an impact on the services that the council provides.

'This may mean, for example, that there may be less housing officers available, or waste or recycling is not collected at the normal time, or that you may need to wait longer before the phone is answered.

'The impact could be felt across any of our services but we are making plans to try to ensure services are maintained as best we can. However, I cannot yet anticipate what the impact will be or where it will be felt.

'I hope that you will bear with us through this period. We will try to keep our website up to date with updates on any service disruption and you can also subscribe to receive updates automatically though our website at https://www.northdevon.gov.uk