Councils’ Covid response undervalued and underutilised by UK Government – new report

9th April 2021

Most areas of the UK saw a ‘concerted and well-coordinated’ effort from local government to support communities and businesses during Covid-19 but recovery plans are being hampered by a lack of direction from central government, according to a new report.

The review, conducted by academics at Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR), examined various aspects of local government responses to the pandemic.

It looked at the general support provided to local residents and their communities; at financial and other assistance to local businesses; the management of parks and public spaces; support for those affected by homelessness and housing insecurity as well as at measures being put in place to chart a path to recovery.

The review found that most areas saw a concerted and well-coordinated effort to meet the needs of local residents, communities and businesses. This involved substantial joint working between different public service providers alongside voluntary sector bodies, but also neighbourhood mutual aid groups, concerned local businesses and members of the general public. 

In many places, positive ‘complementary’ relationships between public sector organisations have been fostered and embedded into new ways of working which is reflected in high satisfaction levels with local authority key workers during the pandemic.

However, the review exposed ‘an ambivalent attitude’ from the UK Government with respect to local authority roles in addressing Covid-19. Local councils were provided access to emergency funding and given discretion to allocate as needed, but they were excluded from the test and trace process which suggests a lack of understanding of the experience and expertise that councils possess.

It also found that a lack of clarity on strategic direction and practical measures from the UK government is hindering regional and local recovery plans.

The report recommends that government empowers local government to play a bigger role in getting support to where it is needed as the UK recovers from the pandemic.

Dr Tony Gore, Senior Research Fellow in CRESR who led the review, said: “Successful local government responses to Covid-19 have been built on the back of productive collaboration, coordination and negotiation between those involved.

“We would be better served if these principles were applied at all levels of government.”

You can read the full report here.

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