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President update: 17th February

17 February 2021

The success of the NHS vaccine rollout has been most welcome amidst all the grim news, ongoing restrictions and winter weather. Unfortunately. it has also brought with it increased speculation and leaks to media about how we get out of lockdown and how soon - the kind of mixed messaging that helps no-one. So far, all it seems to be is speculation, and the Prime Minister is certainly indicating that by taking it slowly, this could be our last lockdown. With reopening schools at the forefront of the first steps out of this lockdown, we are all waiting for the 22nd February roadmap with anticipation.

The Sustainable Growth Board welcomed MHCLG’s Cities and Local Growth Unit to their last meeting. Discussion was centred on the Levelling Up and Shared Prosperity Funds, with the former focused on infrastructure, and the latter on skills, communities and business. It looks likely that the process will again be managed through competitive bidding, and it was suggested that the prospectus for each fund will be published before May. There were some clear asks from the Board: clarity over delivery structures, capacity to deliver bids, that deprived areas exist all over the country, and that a more joined up approach from government, particularly between People and Place.

Several of the Cabinet Office’s Regional Heads of Place have attended sub-national board meetings in recent weeks (Midlands, South West, South East, East) to discuss how government views of Place. Again, we have consistently stressed the view that government must move away from siloed thinking, so it was encouraging that they were interested in how Place can be dealt with as a whole and across agendas.

As you know, we restarted the ADEPT waste survey this month, with the first report published last week. Unsurprisingly staff absences are causing problems for some authorities. 80% are reporting absences and up to 4% of authorities having to suspend non-essential services such as bulky waste, food or garden waste collections. Up to 10% are reporting moderate disruption to core recycling and residual waste services, but there has been no suspension of services and HWRCs remain open as usual. The press release is here.

The Excellence in Place Leadership programme has published the EiPL Customer Experience Toolkit, which aims to support local authorities and place leaders in particular, transform how we interact with our customers. The Toolkit came out of a session which asked ‘how can local authorities emulate the very best in customer centric engagement, service design and delivery?’ Find out more about the session in Chris Traill’s blog.

The Blueprint coalition, including members of ADEPT’s Leadership Team, will be participating in a series of cross-Whitehall workshops with MHCLG, starting in the first week of March. The discussions will focus on the key themes in the Blueprint for accelerating climate action and a green recovery at the local level. If you haven’t yet signed up, there is still time to add your voice to the growing support for empowering local authority action on climate change 

Finally, you will have received your letter from DfT confirming highways maintenance funding allocations for 2021/22. Although ADEPT members are aware that Covid-19 has impacted heavily on the nation’s finances, the financial settlement was nevertheless disappointing. We had hoped that the baseline funding level of £1.5bn for 2020/21 would have continued into 2021/22, so the reduction to £1.15bn means that, once again, local highway authorities will have to pare back on their maintenance work in the forthcoming financial year, despite an enormous backlog of work. We all want to see it return to the 2020/21 levels and ADEPT is continuing to work with DfT, MHCLG and HMT to evidence the positive impact of long-term investment in highway infrastructure assets.

Behind the scenes, we are working hard to bring you an exciting line up for the virtual Spring Conference. We will soon be publishing details for the welcome return of the President’s Awards for 2021. As you know we had to postpone last year’s awards due to Covid-19, so we are looking forward to announcing the opening date for entries shortly.

As always, keep watching our Covid-19 updates page for the latest news. Stay safe everyone.