By Chris Hossack, Associate Director at Cratus and Leader of Brentwood Council
Following the Christmas break, Local Government is looking ahead to 2021 with a mix of trepidation and optimism. The optimism is borne out of the hope in the vaccine, which is the real solution to the CoronaVirus pandemic. However, there remains a great deal of uncertainty and as we know uncertainty is not good for economic growth and the recovery we desperately need.
Whilst the vaccine is good news, boosted over Christmas by the final approval of the Oxford Vaccine, deployment of the vaccine is a mammoth task which could take the best part of 2021 to fully inoculate the population.
The ‘new variant’ of the virus is spreading rapidly. At time of writing, hospitals are on the brink and we will likely face intensified lockdown measures this week. Children may not be back at school for weeks, prolonging the huge challenge working parents faced last year and hampering further the UK’s productivity potential.
Our exit from the EU finally happened quietly on New Year’s Eve, in the days that followed there was no chaos as anticipated but as we progress towards usual routines of work and trade, it will remain to be seen how prepared businesses are for a smooth flow of goods between the UK and the continent. There will be some adaptation required but we know that our businesses are good at change. We saw that in spades during 2020.
So as Local Government embarks upon 2021 it is clear we still face the challenges that were pressing on us before the brief Christmas interregnum. Our resources will continue to be diverted into the pandemic, contending with lockdown measures and consequences of the virus, whilst trying to keep the show on the road. We should anticipate a difficult first few months, whether or not this translates into a delayed democratic exercise planned for May will remain to be seen?
Despite the pressures facing us, Local Government has to be optimistic, our communities are depending on us to play a leading role in recovery and we know that at some point in the coming year we will be able to turn our shoulder full square to that plough, so we need to be ready.
Consumer confidence is a prerequisite to fire up the recovery engine, investors need an easier path to delivery of their ambitions if we are going to reap the benefits in our communities.
In Local Government we cannot directly bring consumer confidence, but we have a part to play in it. We need to be open to ideas from our businesses community and they need to know we are ready to listen and make things happen. The need for recovery is desperate and we have no time for red tape and bureaucracy to hold us back. Those areas whose Local Authorities are well oiled machines, reducing the drag on investment, development and growth, will be those that are best placed to benefit.
So now is the time to look at our corporate strategies for 2021 and beyond, are they fit for purpose? What do we need to change? What opportunities can we seize? Are they bold enough? We need to look at our resourcing and processes and plan for their deployment in ways that will deliver the best results when time allows. Look at the bottlenecks in your organization, make your council easy to work with, to seize the moment when it arrives. Each Local Authority needs to create the narrative that will attract investment and job creators as best it can. It needs to portray a confidence that says ‘open for business’. Every area will have it’s own USP’s that it needs to be prepared to exploit to positive effect.
We can do this, the worst is behind us, we need our communities to know that we are ready for recovery once these shackles are released. I wish you all every success.
If you want to find out more about how Chris and the other members of our Advisory team can support you, get in touch.