These are unprecedented times.
In a matter of weeks, we have become a country of self-isolators and self-distancers, wary of everyone we come into contact with. We all owe a debt of gratitude to our colleagues working on the front line, as they risk their health to help others. However, there is co-operation amidst this crisis, the world has united against COVID-19. We have seen local government responding in an extraordinary way, becoming for so many the 4th emergency service and literally saving lives.
Emergency planning and briefings have become a part of daily life as we seek to deliver services to all of our communities but particularly the most vulnerable. Now, more than ever, our communities are looking to local councils, and to one another, to provide the support and guidance they need in order to protect the elderly, vulnerable, carers and those on the edges of society. Officers and members are working to translate the daily updates on government policy so that financial support and humanitarian aid reaches those that need it, as quickly as possible. Most of us are already starting to think about the Recovery Phase from the pandemic. My fervent hope is that the great spirit that has been generated will lead to co-operative solutions being a real part of the way forward for businesses, local authorities, organisations and communities.
The cooperation in our communities, and the working between partners has been exemplary and all our councils will be using that as a foundation stone to build for the future as we move beyond the immediate emergency of the pandemic. We have seen a wave of support for our incredible care workforce, this must surely result in re-thinking the essential role they have in our communities and ensuring they are recognised properly and paid appropriately. Our Network is already exploring the use of cooperatives in delivering social care through a number of policy labs so we can contribute to the debate going forward.
We have seen initiatives all over the country to set up community response hubs, collaborate and cooperate with voluntary sector partners in local charities, food banks, homeless shelters and to support victims of domestic abuse. All of these areas benefit from the cooperative approach of co-designing solutions with those who are going to use the service. As we emerge from the critical phase of this emergency, cooperative solutions have much to offer in shaping a new future both in the delivery of key services and in the deep-rooted engagement of the public in place-based working from neighbourhood management to tackling climate change.
As our Co-operative Councils continue to develop the community wealth building approach to our local economies we also have a strong contribution to make in re-shaping not just local economies (vital as that is) but the national economy too, so that those who work to deliver the wealth in our country are also those who benefit from that wealth. We have a new understanding and vision from the last few weeks of just who our key workers are when the chips are down. Let us use that foundation to build a fairer economy for all.
Life, as we knew it, will never be the same again. We will unite, collaborate and use our Values & Principles to fight this pandemic.
Stay safe and look after each other.
Councillor Sharon Taylor OBE
Chair of the Cooperative Councils’ Innovation Network and
Leader of Stevenage Borough Council