Flexibility in the face of a crisis

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It’s a cliché to say that we live in amazing times, but clichés are used for a reason. For us at Cratus, traditionally so dependent on seeing the whites of people’s eyes as we build partnerships and trust, times have changed quickly and dramatically. 

We’ve been forced to consider everything we do and how we do it. And in the main it has been incredibly successful. 

Just in the last two weeks we hosted our largest stand alone event ever, with almost 200 people joining us on a webinar to hear from our new colleague Steve Quartermain and a panel made up Councillor Bridget Smith (Leader, South Cambs), Karen Bradford (Chief Executive, South Kestevan) and Andrew Taylor (Head of Planning, Countryside Properties). Two weeks before that we hosted Councillor Peter John, Martha Grekos, Stephen Hammond MP and Joanna Rowelle, on our Moving London out of Lockdown session.

For us this approach is not a flash in the pan, this is the new normal. Our next events – webinars with the new interim Chief Executive of Birmingham, Chris Naylor, and the Mayor of Bristol, Marvin Rees – are accessible to a far wider audience on the web with less travel and less hassle. Although I confess , I will miss the croissants and bacon rolls on offer at traditional breakfast time events…

We’ve also adjusted the way we engage with local people across our planning communications work. We were already spending more time on all things digital but lockdown has encouraged us to push the boundaries further and faster. I’m particularly proud of Cratus Engage  – our new platform designed to allow for live interactions between project teams, impacted communities and, of course, the local authority. 

And it’s not just our planning communications clients who can harness ‘Engage’ – it’s just as applicable to our genuinely groundbreaking Communities team, which turns housing estates into sustainable communities where people want to live and bring up their families, and our wider advisory role working with the local government family. 

Power of local government

It’s that world that most reading this may well know of Cratus from. Longtime champions of the bit of government that impacts most people’s lives, we’ve consistently said that local government is too often ignored and underfunded. 

The current crisis has amply demonstrated the power and effectiveness of local government. 

Councils across the country have re-purposed and redeployed resources at very short notice. In Havering, parking attendants were to be found delivering food parcels to vulnerable people, in Enfield, buildings destined for demolition were turned into depots – similar work was taking place all over the country. At the same time, they kept up essential day to day functions including the often highlighted bin collections.

Imagine a world where, had they the resources they deserve, what they could achieve for their local communities. 

We will certainly miss the opportunity to celebrate with them at our social events at the Local Government Association Conference this year in Harrogate. Our LGBTQ+ 80s disco last year was a highlight for us. 

Next year we will have to go even bigger. Liverpool; you have been warned. 

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