Agenda item

Recovery Planning from the Impact of COVID-19


The Chief Executive sought approval for a proposed approach to

recovery planning from the COVID-19 pandemic and update Cabinet on the proposed cross-party Recovery Panel, the details of which will be reported and agreed at the next Corporate Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and which will help shape, inform and advise Cabinet on the Council’s response and recovery plan.


He reported that in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic on 23 March the UK Government imposed a nationwide lockdown in an effort to help minimise the spread of coronavirus and during that time, the Council had undergone significant change over the last three months, often

responding urgently to changing circumstances, guidance and regulation.  He stated that services have been created, some services stopped, staff redeployed and new working practices put in place including enabling those that can work from home to do so.  He stated that the focus had been on the delivery of essential services, in particular those for the most vulnerable in the Council’s communities, and seeking to prevent the spread of the virus to save lives.  Many of the changes would need to endure beyond this phase of the crisis and potentially become part of the ‘new normal’ for the Council. 


He also reported that due to the speed and severity of the changes required, emergency governance arrangements were put in place in line with the Council’s constitution and scheme of delegation, to allow the Leader and the Chief Executive the agility to respond appropriately to urgent, and often critical matters.  He stated that an emergency Cabinet/Corporate Management Board (CCMB) ‘Gold’ command meeting was established on a daily basis, being informed by Daily Situation Reports and latterly Weekly Situation Reports from each Directorate setting out key issues and risks and matters for decision.  Weekly formal decisions had been circulated throughout this period to Group Leaders and Scrutiny Chairs.  In addition the Leader of the Council provided a daily update to the Leader of the largest non-administration group and weekly meetings held with all of the political group leaders with the Leader and Chief Executive, to ensure elected members were kept as informed and involved as possible in the extraordinary circumstances.


He informed Cabinet that the response of staff had been exceptional in order to continue to deliver essential services effectively.  In Social Services, essential front line services continued to be delivered but in different ways and a strong working relationship with BAVO and the third sector was developed and enhanced.  He stated that social care, Bavo and the customer contact centre worked together to provide support to shielded individuals.  Emergency child care provision was provided in hubs for children of key workers, while the catering service had to quickly plan and arrange delivery of free school meals.  He acknowledged the outstanding support of less visible services, in responding rapidly to the distribution of grants to support local businesses, customer care, communications and information technology teams, and also in waste and cleaner streets, registrars, cemetery and crematoria, economic development and regeneration, housing, cleaning, property, planning, transport, legal, procurement and shared regulatory service teams.  He stated that the ‘One Council’ approach had been very apparent over the last three months in the

way that every Directorate and service area had supported each other, and also in the way there had been widespread, cross party political support for the measures the Council has had to undertake. 


He highlighted the measures required as lockdown and restrictions are eased and the additional challenges that need to be addressed, which had meant that the Council has had to prepare to restart and adapt a wide range of Council services in the context of extended stringent social distancing requirements.  It was proposed that a planning framework setting out how, and ideally when, services can restart, recover and renew will be used.  In the context of Restart, this predominantly relates to actions that must be undertaken with immediate effect to restart services. He stated that the Recovery phase of the planning framework required a strategic response to

support the Council to emerge from the crisis and is likely to be focussed on the next twelve to eighteen months. This will require the reset of the 2020-21 Budget and 2021-22 Budget Strategy to be set in the context of a ‘Recover’ and ‘Renew’ focus, with both revenue and capital implications, reprioritisation of existing Council finances, and strategic interventions for key/priority service areas.  The Renew phase will involve developing a strategy for the ‘new normal’ and a new operating model for the Council for the next five to ten years and will need to be gradually developed over the next eighteen months.


The Chief Executive highlighted the next steps to maintain the momentum, namely: Restart: – Immediate response to the critical issues/priorities identified; Operational planning to move from essential services model now

being completed.  Recover: establish a Recovery Panel at the next Corporate Overview and Scrutiny committee to help shape, inform and advise on the Council’s recovery planning; develop an Integrated recovery report based on the service area returns due by the end of July 2020.  Develop an amended Budget Strategy and MTFS, and repurposed and readjusted 2020/21 Corporate plan and corporate risk assessment by September 2020.   Renew – Work to commence an engagement programme with partners, members, staff and citizens over the summer and autumn, and assess the proposed Community Impact Assessment to be carried out by the Public Services Board. Begin to develop a new policy framework and new corporate plan based on what the new normal will need to look like for the Council to deliver sustainable and effective services for the next 5-10 years.


The Cabinet Member Wellbeing and Future Generations asked how the risks and priorities have been identified.  The Chief Executive informed Cabinet that an assessment had been made on a corporate basis and what is believed to be new risks around digital cyber fraud and attacks on IT systems.  He stated that the Council is supporting vulnerable people, looking at economic and community resilience.  Directors had been requested to review Directorate risks and more recently the Corporate Director Social Services and Wellbeing now had to find a storage area for PPE which had not been required to be done previously. 


The Cabinet Member Social Services and Wellbeing commented on the importance of the role of the Recovery Panel in the recovery process and expressed concern as to whether the Council would be reimbursed by the Welsh Government on the spending it had incurred during the period of lockdown.  The Chief Executive informed Cabinet that he saw the Recovery Panel as being similar to the Budget Research and Evaluation Panel and would call in representatives of business leaders and the business forum as appropriate.  He saw the Recovery Panel as reporting its findings and recommendations to Cabinet. 


The Leader welcomed the involvement of Members in the Recovery Panel and stressed the importance of the Council working with its partners. 


RESOLVED:           That Cabinet:


                                       Noted and approved the proposed approach set out in the body of the report to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and to allow the Council to re-start, recover and renew its service provision;


                                       Noted the establishment of a cross party, elected member, Recovery Panel to help shape, inform, and advise Cabinet on the Council’s recovery planning. The Corporate Overview and Scrutiny on 13th July to receive a report proposing the details of who should participate on the panel and its terms of reference.           


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