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Council sets out plans to ‘restart, recover and renew’

The Cabinet of Bridgend County Borough Council has discussed plans for how the authority intends to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Based around three key stages, the plans look at the gradual easing of national lockdown requirements even as efforts continue to minimise the spread of the coronavirus.

The first stage, Restart, will look at what actions are immediately necessary in order to reintroduce council services. Ranging from the detailed planning required for pupils to attend the ‘check in and catch up’ sessions at local schools to the development of a local economic recovery plan in support of businesses and traders, this stage seeks to restore a degree of normality to council services.

It takes into account issues such as the reopening of Bridgend Bus Station, the restoration of a library service for the county borough, the reopening of local car parks, the provision of community recycling centres and more, and looks towards the future with anticipated events such as the lifting of travel restrictions and the easing of the lockdown to support outdoor sports, recreation and the visitor economy.

It also considers how council meetings can be gradually restored, with virtual meetings of Development Control and Cabinet already in place and further meetings planned for Audit, Scrutiny and full Council.

The second stage of the plans – Recover – seeks to develop a strategic response covering the next 12 to 18 months which will support the council as it emerges from the crisis. This will analyse how services are currently provided, and will look at how they could be developed and improved further in areas such as post-lockdown homelessness provision, the development of new digital opportunities, the reopening of schools for the new term in September, the future sustainability of cultural and leisure services, encouraging greater use of active travel routes and public transport, providing safer streets and more.

With many council staff using ICT to work from home, the plans will look at how customer requirements may have changed, how departments can work more closely together in future, and how council finances can reviewed to meet current costs while also considering future challenges such as the potential for additional cost pressures, cash flow challenges, lost income and more.

As part of this, the council will revaluate its budget strategy and Medium Term Financial Strategy to support recovery planning and realigned funding on a permanent basis.

Finally, the third part of the plan - Renew – will look at bringing all of this together to create a new operating model for the council, possibly with a shift in the working culture to take into account issues such as greater agile working, a reduced need for office space, increased focus on digital solutions, greater local and regional partnership working, community leadership and more.

To support this, a cross-party Recovery Panel has been created to help shape, inform and advise Cabinet on progress throughout the three stages of the plan.

The council has undergone significant change over the last three months, often responding urgently to changing circumstances, guidance and regulation. New services have been created, some services have stopped, staff have been redeployed and new working practices have been put in place.

The focus throughout this has been on the continued delivery of essential services, especially for the most vulnerable in our communities, while seeking to prevent the spread of the virus to save lives. To do this, we have had to adapt service delivery on a scale and at a pace that is unprecedented, with many of the changes needing to endure beyond this phase of the crisis, and potentially become part of the ‘new normal’ for the council in the future.

The response from all of the council’s staff has been exceptional throughout this period, particularly in view of the many significant challenges that we have faced. Many of our employees have gone above and beyond what could ordinarily be expected of them in order to ensure we can continue to deliver essential services effectively, and I want to thank them and acknowledge their efforts even as I look forward to seeing how the plans to restart, recover and renew develop and gather pace.

Council Leader Huw David

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