Head of APSE Solutions, Andy Mudd, explores the issues of reality that will face frontline services and the help that is at hand from experts in the field
The extraordinary resilience and adaptability of our public services, even after a decade of austerity, is once again to the fore. For some councils the challenge of keeping services going in the face of lockdown comes on the back of weeks of dealing with unprecedented levels of flooding. Financial insecurity and the long-term crisis that is climate change have not gone away. At best they are on hold but once the immediate issues thrown up by the COVID-19 crisis have been responded to there will be little time to relax. The changed short, medium, and long-term realities create new challenges that will test our ability to adapt and respond like never before.
The immediate focus for council leadership teams is to ensure that vital services are maintained. With large numbers of staff working from home and the risk of COVID related absences through illness, self-isolation or shielding measures, there is a need for agility and swift decision making. As some services are put on hold, others are under huge pressure but it is not always possible to simply move people around. Leisure centre staff cannot be expected to turn their hand to social care or refuse collection without a significant level of retraining, and there is neither the time, nor capacity to provide it. In any event, once the lockdown period comes to an end, the on-hold services will be under immediate pressure to remobilise and, in some cases can be expected to see a swift increase in demand, as society and the economy seek to make up for lost ground. Registrars, planners and leisure providers, amongst many others can expect to be run off their feet once Britain emerges from isolation.
It is always difficult to predict what will happen in the longer term but it would be foolish not to expect and plan for a serious economic downturn and all that implies in terms of an increase in social problems. Councils will, as ever, be the frontline response and questions remain as to what resources will genuinely be put in place, both to both compensate for the additional expenditure attributable to COVID-19, and to recalibrate our neighbourhood level services, back to realistic levels of funding. If COVID-19 has taught us anything it is the risk to services presented by hollowed out local government. This suggests a renewed emphasis on efficiency and in many cases exploring the ongoing viability of commercial income generation, particularly as some stable clients, such as schools, have been forced to close through the COVID emergency. And let us not forget climate change. Whilst that emergency may have been temporarily pushed down the agenda it is in the end still the greatest existential threat mankind has ever faced. The global experience of the pandemic may prove to be something of a wakeup call and prompt a renewed emphasis on carbon reduction. Councils will continue to lead the way in pushing for a sustainable future.
The challenges are immediate, pressing and unrelenting. APSE, as always, will be there to support and encourage UK local government to respond positively and effectively. For its part, APSE Solutions will continue to offer expert advice and support through its extensive network of interim managers and consultants. From filling gaps in current capacity through to help with planning the services of the future, APSE Solutions aims to be on the journey with the APSE membership. We are also aware that your exhausted staff teams may need additional support when remobilisation efforts kick-in, and again we have people here to help. As part of APSE’s not-for-profit family of services, we are confident that we can support our vital frontline services rise to the challenges. Please do not hesitate to contact me or one of the team if there is anything, we can do to help you. In the meantime, its hats off to the frontline once again!
Contact, Andy Mudd, Head of APSE Solutions on email firstname.lastname@example.org
APSE Solutions, which is part of APSE’s not-for-profit family of services, has developed a specific new service to help local councils with a dedicated COVID-19 Helpline. This includes sourcing interim managers and call off consultancy support; offering new flexible ways to help you cope with the new challenges.
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