Observer column: 7 August 2020
Your council is still working hard to respond to the impact of COVID-19 on its services and on our partners, communities and businesses. New guidance and announcements from the government and the changing situation present significant challenges for us in ensuring we all understand what's new and what we need to do. We try to keep our website up to date with latest information and links to more details and are also using our social media channels and the weekly residents' newsletter to help keep people informed. The last four months have presented us with many difficulties which have been overcome not least because of our work with partners. We will keep the welfare and safety of the people of our town at the heart of our thinking as we continue to respond to the impact of the pandemic.
We are also planning how we think both the council and the town can recover from the impact of the pandemic. So, for example, we are reviewing our corporate plan to ensure it focuses on our priority themes such as securing the council's finances, supporting the most vulnerable and climate change and the green economy. I am pleased that the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at their annual meeting decided to focus their work on our town's recovery and their input will be invaluable.
Your council will play a leading role in driving the town's recovery, but we will only succeed by the collective work of all our partners and communities. The Local Strategic Partnership - which brings together leaders from the public, private/business, community and voluntary sectors- will be the driving force pulling together all our efforts to secure the best possible future for our town as we emerge from this crisis.
Amongst the tools and resources to support our recovery will be a bid to the Town's Fund. The Town Deal Board will be putting forward proposals for up to £25m from the fund which will help us on the road to recovery in a post-COVID landscape. Work to develop our new Local Plan and implement our Climate Change Strategy will also be essential so we have the maximum impact on shaping our town so that it has a thriving and sustainable future.
Please visit our website for more information about this interlinked work.
As we look to the future, we must also consider the threat of a 'second wave' of the pandemic and plan for that. We are learning lessons from the experience we have been through, but we recognise the challenge could still be enormous, particularly in the winter time. The apparent low infection rate in our town may have been due in part to the way that people responded so positively to the stay home stay safe messaging and the care and concern we have shown for each other.
Much is uncertain now and many of us are struggling with the reality of day to day life living with the impact of the virus. There are local lockdowns happening across the country and the government has paused some lockdown easing measures. These are still worrying times. We want our town to continue its recovery journey and to avoid further lockdowns here, so it is important that we all play our part by washing our hands, socially distancing, wearing a face covering (remembering that some people can't) and responding if we are contacted by the track and trace system. We will keep supporting businesses to operate safely and will send out reminders to people about how to stay safe.
Please let's carry on being kind and respect and care for one another.
Council Leader's column