The District Councils’ Network and the County Councils Network Joint Statement
This article was published on March 25th, 2020 on the Local Government Chronicle Article highlighting the importance of Districts and Counties collaborating during such challenging times. Central government is turning to local authorities to support the front line efforts to protect the most vulnerable during this pandemic. See below for a copy of the article.
David Williams and John Fuller: Councils must work closer together than ever
These are truly unprecedented times, with the way we are living and working changing by the day, let alone week.
This is a global pandemic, but it is one we will solve if we all pull together – and that means nationally and locally. As the Prime Minister has stressed, we need to support the national endeavour to combat COVID-19 by doing all we can to help residents in counties stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives, and support our local economies.
To that end, during this time of national crisis, district councils and county councils will need to work closer than ever before.
Nowhere is this more important than the challenge set by the government to help shield our most clinically vulnerable residents through the establishment of community hubs.
The guidance released today by the government illustrates that there is a substantive role for every local authority to play. It is vital that all districts and counties work in tandem in a coordinated and consistent way under the auspices of their Local Resilience Forums, within arrangements that provide absolute clarity on how those identified by the NHS will get the support they need.
Preparatory work on the community hubs helping ‘shield’ the most vulnerable has begun, but the real effort starts now. Our counties and districts must and will work together as one to shape the community response hubs to COVID-19 and ensure that the hundreds of thousands get healthy meals delivered to their doors, and to marshal the spectacular volunteer effort within our communities.
But the role of counties and districts goes further than these hubs.
As health and social care authorities, counties will have an unrelenting focus on preparing their care services for the additional demands they will face and freeing up bed space to take the burden off the NHS to save thousands of lives.
As the housing, revenue and benefit authorities, districts will be supporting families through a whole range of difficulties, including through the Hardship Fund, and as billing authorities will be helping local businesses access rate reliefs and grants to get through one of the toughest times in their history.
At the same time, all of us are putting in place plans to keep services running and protecting our workforce; mobilising and reprioritising services.
Difficult decisions will be needed over services to ensure that social distancing is being adhered to by residents and keeping the most essential services operating at capacity. This will mean redeploying our staff onto essential tasks, and all councils and the wider public sector will have to work together on these re-deployment plans to ensure critical services are delivered.
This effort will only be a success if we are all pulling together – utilising our individual areas of expertise, community links, and shared resource.
Make no mistake, this is a real vote of confidence for local authorities. As council leaders, we sometimes feel unfairly perceived by the public and the government, but this provides us with a real opportunity to show the best in local government.
Of course, that is a distant second priority to the real tasks facing us now: protecting the vulnerable, helping those that require support, and protecting our local economies as best we can. Every decision we make will have an impact on hundreds of thousands of local residents.
Our duties won’t cease once we are over the peak – it will be left to councils to pick up the individual and economic pieces once the epidemic has left our shores. But one thing is for sure: we stand the best possible chance of success and then recovery by working together during this period of national emergency.
Cllr David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network
Cllr John Fuller, chairman of the District Councils’ Network