- Priority areas outlined for post-COVID 19 recovery
- New ways of working proved successful as part of pandemic response will be maintained
- Recognition that council will need to adapt to face economic and social impact
Building a fairer local economy, continuing to draw on the strength of the borough’s communities that care and pushing its green agenda form key parts of Wigan Council’s recovery plans.
Proposals for the transition to post-COVID-19 life, outlining that the council will need to adapt in the face of unprecedented financial, social and wider economic challenges have been set out this week. Latest financial forecasts suggest the council is facing a £20m shortfall with further pressure placed on its future income, highlighting the need for transformation.
Encompassing short and long-term recovery plans, the key areas are;
- Protect and improve health and wellbeing
- Support a sustainable economic recovery
- Build on new strengths within our communities
- Ensure children and young people return and thrive in their education/training
- Meet financial challenges and retain new and better ways of working
Leader of Wigan Council, Coun David Molyneux, said: “COVID-19 has had such a profound impact on public services and we must accept that there will be no going back to how we operated prior to this crisis Through the qualities and systems set up because of the success of The Deal, we have been able to form effective response plans and we will do the same through our recovery.
“The Deal principles helped us adapt and then thrive despite the challenges posed by 10 years of austerity, but this is a challenge like no other we have faced. We need to evolve once more to build a safer, greener and more secure society – with improved health outcomes and a growing and sustainable local economy.”
The predicted financial deficit, together with opportunities to transform the way it operates through The Deal 2030, have helped set some of the council’s short-term priorities. New ways of working proved effective as part of the response to the pandemic will be maintained.
More staff than ever before have been able to access networks from home and technology has been utilised in different ways with both internal and external meetings taking place online. Remote working, community-based teams and less travel across the council will help meet environmental targets and promote a greener and digitally focused economy.
Response efforts to COVID-19 used the community partnership aspects of The Deal’s asset-based approach, meaning community hubs were set-up without delay. Well-established links between communities, businesses and the voluntary sector have been strengthened as a result, which will help to support recovery.
For example, more than 700 volunteers put themselves forward to help and the council is keen to harness the spirit and enthusiasm from this cohort who embody the communities that care for each other concept outlined as part of The Deal.
The borough’s cultural ambitions will also play a key role with the council’s manifesto The Fire Within coming to the fore to promote arts, performance and creativity. Culture will remain an important part of plans to rejuvenate the borough’s town and district centres.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 the council had been finalising its community wealth building partnership. This approach will focus public sector purchasing in the borough to support local businesses and supply chains and foster locally based sectors.
High quality skills training and apprenticeships will be prioritised to avoid a ‘lost generation’.
It will aim to grow the low carbon economy to deliver new employment and enable the borough to become less reliant on fossil fuels over the next five to 10 years. This will form an important part of recovery plans to help create sustainable economic growth and mitigate against losses with the pandemic estimated to cost the council around £40m.
Coun Molyneux added: “Through setting out our five priority areas we hope to reassure residents across the borough that we will continue – along with all our partners – to provide them with the support and services they need, as we have done throughout this crisis.”
The council is working on a revised budget for the year with changes expected to its capital programme to reflect the unprecedented financial challenge. The proposals will now be shared with elected members before being formally presented at the next meeting of the cabinet.
Residents will have the opportunity to comment and share their views on the transition stage recovery proposals in the coming weeks.