When Rishi Sunak stood up to make his Budget promises a week ago, coronavirus was at the top of the agenda. But the speed at which the crisis is developing is breakneck.
As the new chancellor offered cash to councils to help deal with the pandemic, the number of deaths in the UK had not yet hit double figures. The biggest inconvenience for the public was the prolonged hand-washing and some travel restrictions.
Behind the scenes, local government may have been leaping into action, but for the public the limitations were negligible.
Just a week later and the emergency planning is in full swing. The infection rates are climbing, the local elections have been cancelled and social distancing is in full swing. Welcome to the world of home working.
The chancellor’s updated plans for financial support are unprecedented. A raft of financial measures to protect people and the economy – and recognising that local government will be the first port of call for people in need.
I have no doubt that the impact of the current crisis will reverberate around the globe for many years to come. Will it be remembered for the empty-shelved supermarkets and stockpiled pasta and loo rolls? Or will it be communities rallying round their neighours in need that will be the lasting legacy?
Regardless, local government is at the heart of this crisis. Despite a decade of cuts, councils still step up. While the nation focuses on pressures on the NHS, the efforts of frontline care workers will be every bit as vital.
Thousands of local authority staff across the country will be battling to protect local people and preserve their communities. The extraordinary efforts of a sector that devotes itself to people and places will hold the UK together.
I thank you all.
Here at The MJ, we are not on the frontline, but we want to support our colleagues in local government. We will be working remotely and will continue to print The MJ, but we appreciate not everyone will be in work to read it.
So, for the duration of the national crisis, we will put free access to The MJ on our website as an enhanced ebook for anyone who wants it – available wherever you are, whenever you want it.
We will do all we can to share your stories of best practice, advice and assistance while you do what you can to look after your communities.