Supporting councillors to lead and represent their communities and councils as the country emerges from lockdown is the focus of a new guide published by the LGA.
As the work of councils shifts from coronavirus emergency to recovery, ‘COVID-19 outbreak: reset and recovery’ – the second in a series of LGA councillor guides – considers the changing role of councillors.
The guide brings together good-practice examples of place-shaping activities that councillors up and down the country are involved in, and provides further inspiration about the political, civic and community leadership roles they can play in the recovery from the pandemic.
The LGA’s March 2020 guidance, ‘COVID-19 outbreak’, correctly predicted that “the coming months will make huge demands of all of us connected with councils, as well as a great many other people in our communities”.
While many of the most immediate and challenging pressures of the response have reduced, there are still huge demands on councils to continue to deliver some aspects of this work while supporting stabilisation and recovery.
Councils and health services are not only playing a leading role in the emergency response, they are also running response and recovery in parallel, for periods well beyond anything seen before. For example, in places such as Bournemouth, Liverpool and Leicester, councillors and local leaders played a substantive role in leading their organisations as they responded to issues experienced in each area.
Other specific challenges include the development and implementation of plans and structures for managing local outbreaks, increases in resident vulnerability, and rising councillor caseloads as the impact of the outbreak hits households.
In addition, with so many people adversely affected by COVID-19 – whether through bereavement, stress, mental health issues, or financial troubles relating to the economic impact of the lockdown – the number of residents seeking help from the council and looking to engage with their councillors has increased.
It also remains the case that many staff and councillors, in common with local residents, continue to juggle the demands of supporting family members alongside their council roles, or may have been impacted by the pandemic in terms of their own health or by bereavement.
The pandemic has subverted many of the usual emergency management norms with which councils are familiar. However, throughout the response, councillors have found new ways to contact residents, using telephone and videoconferencing to meet virtually and discuss problems and complaints.
Councillors also have a leadership role to play through local outbreak control boards, which will lead communications with the public and help to lead their communities through local outbreaks of COVID-19 where they occur.
The LGA is collating and sharing good practice on the test, trace and contain system, including local outbreak control boards, in a Knowledge Hub site that councillors can join at: khub.net/group/lga-containment-covid-19/group-home.
There is no doubt reset and recovery from COVID-19 will be a multifaceted and long-running process. But it absolutely remains the case that councillors will have a significant role to play in shaping recovery in a way that enables local areas to build on the opportunity to strengthen community resilience and improve local places.