Some of the changes made by Wealden Council during the Coronavirus pandemic are here to stay, the organisation has indicated as it plans for recovery.
For example the council was quick to introduce home working in advance of the Government lockdown and says remote working has been a success.
A document going to Cabinet on Wednesday, July 15, says: “As a council we faced significant changes to the way we work.
“The investment and improvements we have made through our digital strategies over recent years have enabled us to adapt quickly, work remotely and maintain services in ways that would not have been imaginable had the pandemic struck just five years earlier.”
Now the council wants to maximise the benefits to the council, and its employees, from remote working and shape the way it wants to work five years from now.
To this end it is planning for lower occupancy of a new office which will be built as part of the Hailsham Aspires project, which aims to regenerate Hailsham,
The council says home working means it can consider new ways of recruiting and retaining staff from a wider geographic area, particularly those “hard to recruit to roles” previously constrained by the need to relocate to, and work in the district.
Another change will be the reduction of face-to-face contact through the council’s reception, so releasing those staff for other duties.
Meetings will be run remotely until such time as there can be a safe return to the Civic Community Centre. Ways of including and encouraging community participation will continue to be sought.
Wealden has drawn up proposals to help the whole district recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
It says successful recovery from an emergency of this magnitude requires strong leadership, good governance and evidence-based decisions.
It continues saying: “The Covid-19 pandemic is unparalleled in terms of emergencies faced in the history of this council, and is the largest national peacetime emergency in over a century.
“With no vaccine in prospect before the middle of 2021 at the earliest, that emergency remains very real and the council will face significant challenges throughout the recovery, made all the more complex by the risk of subsequent ‘waves’ or ‘spikes’.”
Each councillor was asked to complete an impact assessment for their community to capture thinking on the short, medium, and long-term implications for their communities and any mitigation measures they felt would help.
And a detailed analysis has been undertaken of the issues, financial implications, and risks, facing the council and its services, through the restart and recovery process.
The council’s objectives include:
- Supporting existing businesses that closed temporarily during the pandemic to reopen and thrive, and give the public confidence to return to using those businesses.
- Create the right conditions for new businesses to open or relocate to Wealden.
- Where businesses have had to close, support owners and help employees find new employment
- Help communities to embed positive changes made to lifestyles, to promote physical and mental wellbeing.
- Ensure resilience of community and voluntary groups in the future and help them recruit new volunteers and supporters.
- Continue to provide support, where needed, to those most vulnerable and/or affected by the Covid-19 emergency.
Priorities for the council’s own business operations are to:
- Ensure all services are fully operational as quickly as possible
- Work with partners (public and private sector) to facilitate the delivery of the district strategic outcomes above.
- Embrace and embed positive changes made to the way the council operates as a business
- Review financial plans to ensure cost pressures are managed
- Review emergency planning response to ensure the council is fully prepared should there be a second infection peak or local outbreak.
Full details of the council’s restart and recovery plan can be seen here.
Read more about Wealden Council’s response to the virus here: Covid-19 could cost Wealden Council £7m. This story also shows how the council has supported the community during the crisis.