So far, November has been quite a month. First came the news that the American people have voted to reject the populism of the Trump era, opting for more stable and moderate leadership in the form of Joe Biden. Then, we learned that the COVID-19 vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, is effective in preventing the virus in over 90% of participants and can be rolled out from the end of the year. And, if we’re to believe the adage that good luck comes in threes, there’s even the prospect of a Brexit deal on the horizon.
All this positivity means that for the first time since the pandemic struck, many of us are thinking about life returning to some kind of normality. Now is precisely the time for the local government sector to start thinking seriously about the collateral damage that COVID has caused and what can be done to prevent further harm.
Research published earlier this month by Pro Bono Economics, a consultancy supported by high profile economists, found that nationally 166,000 charities and voluntary organisations have seen income streams shrink at the same time as demand for their services has surged as a result of the pandemic.
While the impact of the second lockdown is still emerging, the closure of charity shops, cancellation of events and reduction in pre-Christmas fundraising activities has lead Pro Bono Economics to forecast that the funding gap between income and expenditure across the sector could reach £10bn. It has also estimated that 60,000 jobs could be lost.
These gloomy projections should be sounding alarm bells for local authorities. More than nine in 10 charities have reported that coronavirus has negatively impacted their ability to deliver charitable objectives and over 50% say they will have to reduce the services they offer. Such decisions will only serve to increase demand on councils at a time when their own pressures are acute. While there’s a natural tendency to fight our own corner first, the smart approach is to recognise many charities are critical to the delivery of many public services and to building and strengthening local communities. Surely, there has been no more important a time for councils and charities to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and together to lead the rebuild.
Claire Kober is managing director homes at Pinnacle Group