Councils ‘needed more than ever’

Elected members are providing much-needed reassurance in their communities and council workers are unstinting in their commitment to public service.

The world seems a dark and frightening place right now.

At the time of writing, 15,464 people have died in the UK from COVID-19, 534 of whom have died in Wales.

Behind these cold statistics are many lives lost and countless bereft families and friends. Many of our most vulnerable residents will be feeling anxious and scared, as all our daily lives have been restricted almost beyond recognition.

But local services remain a constant beacon for us all. Dedicated council staff are playing a vital role in looking after residents in need of support; keeping communities clean and tidy; enforcing stringent new public protection regulations; administering millions of pounds of vital business support grants; providing childcare and free school meals to entitled children; keeping concerned residents informed of the help available to them; and helping to set up field hospitals and makeshift mortuaries.

Councils are working together with partners, including the voluntary and community sector, to harness the talents and sheer goodwill of the many thousands of people who have volunteered to help.

Never has the demand on our workers been greater. Many council staff have volunteered to change roles in their determination to help. I would like to thank all of them sincerely for their unstinting commitment to public service, and the vital work that they will continue to do in the tough months ahead.

Amid such uncertainty, councillors are providing much-needed reassurance in their communities. People will naturally turn to their councillors for guidance and leadership, and to be signposted to all available support.

This is unlike anything any of us have seen before and it has placed new demands on everyone to adjust to new ways of working. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all my fellow councillors for their invaluable, ongoing contribution.

Through the WLGA, all council leaders and chief executives continue to work closely together to help to coordinate the national response by collating intelligence, sharing good practice and raising concerns. We continue to hold video conferences regularly with ministers and senior officials from across the Welsh Government, and the Secretary of State for Wales, to monitor and respond rapidly to developments.

While this national work continues, our role as leaders in our communities is just as important. The WLGA is keeping all councillors in Wales up to speed with the latest developments with a daily bulletin, and the WLGA website is being regularly updated.

We hope that these updates are of help to councillors in fulfilling their duties as elected representatives at what is a very unsettling time for us all.

We don’t know when this deadly crisis will pass. But it will. And when we eventually start on our journey on the long road to recovery, councils will be needed more than ever: to continue to care for those who most need it; to offer support to hard-hit businesses and regenerate local economies; to help protect, rebuild and stand up for our traumatised communities.

In the meantime, we must all carry on doing everything we can to look after our residents, our staff and each other. And strive for the better days that will come.

For more information about the WLGA and to access its coronavirus resources, please visit  www.wlga.gov.uk.

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