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COVID-19: “We are the place our community looks to for confidence, calm and swift responses”

 

I am writing this article in between numerous conference calls and meetings as South Lakeland District Council plans and responds to the forthcoming coronavirus pandemic.

The situation is so fluid, of course, and things are changing all the time. The daily government briefings bring new information and challenges in a setting unlike anything we have experienced before. What it certainly means is we will see changes in how the local councils operate and how our staff are asked to work.

All our changes are intended to slow the spread of the virus among the workforce and general population, with the aim of minimising the impact on our ability to continue to provide public services to the people of South Lakeland.

This means home-working for those able to, teams operating from split locations, change or suspension of certain services and more. Over 90% of our workforce are now able to work from home, and the current situation will test that ability to the maximum. There will not be a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach across our council.

Our leads have been considering how services can best continue to operate, so that we continue to function in a co-ordinated and effective way for our residents and businesses. For many in our community we are the place they look to for confidence, calm and swift responses, for continued service delivery in ties of huge uncertainty and sometimes just someone to point them in the right direction.

Our councillors have an important and significant role in providing leadership in their respective places, to ensure we do our utmost to help, especially for those most in need or vulnerable.

We appreciate this is a worrying time for many. We are asking our teams to be flexible about how they work and respond positively to the changes we are making. We will do this with our partners, and support our communities in any way we can. By reducing some services now, we allow capacity elsewhere, when it is needed.

This is significant challenge, and while we are in the early phases of the outbreak we can expect the situation to potentially worsen over the coming weeks and months – we must be prepared as an organisation and as a workforce to respond in an agile way to developments as they arise. This is what our citizens expect, and we as districts and the local government family, will not let them down.

Lawrence Conway is Chief Executive of South Lakeland District Council and a Director of the Institute of Economic Development. This article is adapted from a version
first published in The MJ: https://www.themj.co.uk/We-wont-let-our-citizens-down/217131

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