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London Councils: Stepping up to the Covid-19 challenge

Source: PSE Apr/May

Cllr Peter John OBE – Chair of London Councils

As the complex, long-term challenge of the global COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, London borough councillors and officers are working night and day to protect and support Londoners, especially our most vulnerable residents, while also finding a way to continue running essential local services.

Local government is at the heart of the communities we serve - we know our residents and can see what is happening on the ground. This knowledge is proving invaluable in as we work with national government and local partners on the strategic response to COVID-19.

In London, a city of nearly 10 million people, the boroughs are central to London’s plans to manage the impact of coronavirus. As active members of our Local Resilience Forum and Strategic Co-ordination Group, we are influencing city-wide priorities for dealing with the pandemic, collaborating with partner organisations to co-ordinate efforts, ensuring initiatives aimed at changing behaviour and helping vulnerable people are having the desired reach and impact, and raising issues centrally if there are barriers to delivery.

London boroughs also have a powerful, accountable leadership role. Taking local ownership of vital public health messages - such as “stay home, save lives, protect the NHS” - makes it more likely they will be heard and followed through by all our residents, including harder to reach communities. 

The coronavirus pandemic is affecting every aspect of people’s lives and is inevitably having an impact on the wide range of services councils provide and communities rely on.

London boroughs are working through social care to try and ensure that hospitals have enough capacity, creating community hubs to reach out to the most vulnerable people isolating at home, including those with the most serious underlying health conditions, to ensure that they can get the support that they need, and trying to help local businesses as they fight for survival. There are countless other examples of the ways that councils are making a positive difference to people’s lives through this period despite challenging circumstances.

We are also being flexible and responsive to the needs of our residents - for example, by redeploying staff working on non-essential services. A council librarian with a valid DBS check could be trained to deliver supplies to people who are self-isolating. Boroughs are also taking a pragmatic approach to services such as parking enforcement, enabling NHS staff, carers and other key workers to park for free in council-run facilities.

The emergence of COVID-19 is a generation-defining event. It is now touching us all as friends, family and work colleagues fall ill - even taking some of them from us. London boroughs are stepping up to this challenge - however the situation develops, our local expertise, community relationships and accountable leadership are needed now more than ever.


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