The LGA has been conducting Recovery and Renewal Panel sessions with St Helens Borough Council – and councils across the country – which provide an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and learning in their COVID-19 response, and to identify a series of steps the council may wish to take in its recovery and renewal.
St Helens Borough Council Leader, Councillor David Baines said: “The LGA understands the challenges that councils face, the opportunities they can pursue and is a great resource for shared learning. We fully appreciate their support and guidance in the recovery of our borough and our economy, and the renewal of our ways of working and our service delivery.
“And while we must balance our aspirations within one of the most challenging financial landscapes of our times, there is plenty to remain hopeful about in our future.
“We have a new leadership team, an emerging approach to working with our communities, ambitious visions for our organisation and our borough – and clear actions to realise our goals.”
Among the key themes that emerged in the council’s discussions with the LGA, and considered by Cabinet today, is the drive to define, develop and embed a new relationship with the local community, and local voluntary, community and faith sectors, which began with ‘St Helens Together.’
As an initial approach to the local response to the coronavirus pandemic, St Helens Together was successful in establishing new relationships with local people, businesses and partners, and bringing new voices and resources to the fore. Just one of these successes is the #sthelenstogether crowd fund initiative, which raised more than £85,000 to support the COVID-19 response effort. The intention is to capture and sustain this more cooperative way of working and build on this momentum going forward.
The report addresses the council’s pressing financial position, which while awaiting the one-year review settlement from Government, details a budget requirement of £20.4m for 2021/2022, following a COVID-19 cost and income pressure of £30.35m for 2020/2021, met by only £13.2m of additional COVID funding to date, leaving a shortfall of £17.12m.
The LGA praised the council’s collective team spirit shown in recent months, focussed on a clear goal, while enabling and supporting the types of transformation required.
The council has committed to pursuing innovation in its ‘One Council’ approach to modernisation, and is keen to build upon its growing culture shift, ‘working with’ rather than ‘working for’ local communities at a strategic and operational level.
The benefits from having an integrated health and social care arrangement in the response to the pandemic have become evident in recent months, including the advantages of a single care record in enabling a more agile support response for vulnerable residents. There may be further opportunities to innovate linked to the integration of health and social care, which the council is keen to capitalise on.
Cabinet also discussed the council’s decision to hold back on submitting its Town Deal Investment plan to allow further analysis of the new environment the borough’s town centres, at a time when home-based working has become predominant for many previously office-based businesses.
A new relationship is developing with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority – seen very much as a supportive partner. As all City Region areas begin the reset and recovery of their local economies, building further on this relationship will be important.
The council has ambitions to further develop and deliver a compelling vision for localities-based working, with a detailed action plan to drive progress in all of the above, building relationships with residents, and understanding how they might want to see services delivered.