'We cannot sleepwalk into going back to normal'

By Tracie Langley | 06 May 2020

Charles Addams, of Addams Family fame, said: ‘Normal is an illusion. What is normal for a spider is chaos for the fly’. More now than at any time in my life, I feel like that fly.

Instinctively, I know that we will come out the other side, because that is what we do in public service. The numbers though are telling me something very different, so I need not only to find certainty among the chaos of budget pressures, but also to remain confident about the plan to get back on track.

The only way I will get any certainty is through some forensic examination of income forecasting, looking at every line of income and make assumptions about when that income will come back to us. For some income lines, even if we come out of lockdown in June, there will not be an immediate recovery to normal levels. Scenario planning on each line is therefore important.

The delivery of our savings plan has been delayed, getting back on track with this isn’t as simple as it sounds because our world has changed and our plans no longer relevant. I can’t bear to think how this is going to play out in our communities. On the one hand, I see many of our businesses shutting up for good and many individuals struggling to survive. On the other hand, I see our most vulnerable being supported in ways they will never have seen before and solutions being found for our homeless that will never have been thought possible.

There are silver linings for public service too. There is money we haven’t spent. We have saved many travel miles and people aren’t travelling using concessionary bus fares. We have 5,000 people using IT at home and have closed nearly 300 buildings.

However we come back, we cannot sleepwalk into going back to normal. Our plans must include how we keep hold of some of the brilliant things we have done over the last month and we must withstand the propensity to creep back to the normal we had.

Tracie Langley is interim chief operating officer & s151 officer at Cornwall Council

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