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Local authorities must work with communities to lead the COVID-19 recovery
John Copps argues that the recovery from COVID-19 needs to be a joint endeavour with councils, communities and local businesses all pulling in the same direction.
The COVID-19 crisis has shown our country’s reliance on public services, and the value of them to us all.
But more than that, the response to the pandemic has shown how much councils, the NHS, businesses and local people can achieve together.
Amongst the havoc wreaked by the virus, there have been bright spots. Communities and public services have forged new links in a spirit of cooperation. There has been an upsurge in ordinary people wanting to do something to contribute. Local Authorities and their NHS and social care partners are working more closely together. Technology has been employed as never before to support those in need and to connect people.
The overwhelming conclusion from these new ways of working is that public services can and should be more connected to their communities.
As the peak of the crisis passes, now is an opportunity to think about how we want public services to look in future.
It will be up to local authorities to lead a recovery. They must plot a recovery that reshapes services around local people, and which recast their role as one that promotes great collaboration with communities.
What does ‘recovering together’ look like?
Mutual Venture’s latest report – Recovering together with communities – is designed to help local authorities create a plan for people and places to come back stronger. It outlines five ‘building blocks’ that should be part of every COVID-19 recovery strategy: (1) strategic co-operation between partners; (2) local people’s role in public services; (3) business as part of the community; (4) supportive neighbourhoods; and (5) self-care.
Recovery plans must be accompanied with practical action for each, reflecting the needs of the local economy, existing community assets, and the after-effects of the crisis. The report presents a series of ideas that can provide a starting point for a plan that promotes genuine co-operation with local communities.
The experience of living through the COVID-19 crisis has tested councils to their limits. What comes next will be an even bigger challenge as a backlog of cases, strains on the workforce and financial pressures mount, alongside a weak economy, rising unemployment and the unknown of Brexit. All these challenges add up to the need for a strategy that looks at a whole place, in collaboration with local people communities.
The last three months has changed public services in so many ways. But it is what comes next that will really shape their future relationship with us all.