Has COVID strengthened councils’ links with communities?

By Justin Galliford | 02 November 2021

‘The hugely challenging situation our whole country has been facing since last year has had one positive consequence, in that it has brought about a groundswell of citizen engagement,’ says Natalie Abraham, COO at C.Co.

She continues: ‘Residents are, arguably, more than at any time in living memory, aware of the delivery of essential services that they may previously have simply taken for granted.’

At Norse we fully support this view. There is clear evidence that the pandemic has reinforced the public’s generally-held view that councils are competent and trusted to deliver local services such as highways maintenance, waste collection, transport, housing stock building maintenance and grounds maintenance.

Norse has more than 30 council partnerships, and we have seen them successfully maintain frontline services throughout the pandemic. Typically, together we have taken on:

• Delivering food and supplies to vulnerable residents

• Converting several buildings into COVID testing sites

• Creating and installing new signage

• Sourcing and distributing PPE

• Introducing touchpoint cleaning in council buildings and schools

• Supplying sanitiser to council and school staff

• Providing screens to any council sites or schools in need of them

• Carrying out specialist COVID sanitisation cleans for council buildings and schools

• Supplying cleaning and waste removal for the COVID testing sites

The fact that many of the essential services continued to be delivered during the worst days of lockdown certainly seems to have strengthened our partner councils’ links with their communities. It has also generated wider recognition of councils’ capabilities in managing key services.

Looking to the future, in order to satisfy both the financial challenge and the moral need to support their citizens, C.Co believes councils must radically change the way they deliver services. Natalie Abraham says: ‘If councils can connect this heightened awareness and sense of belonging with the realities of future funding, they can capitalise on this strengthened relationship with their citizens.

‘Organisation-wide change has to be far reaching and include a new, citizen-centred focus on delivery, based on innovative leadership, a culture of trust and an asset, as opposed to deficit, approach to engagement.’

Justin Galliford is Norse Chief Operating Officer

This article is sponsored content for The MJ

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