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President update: 31st August 2021

31 August 2021

I hope you’ve all managed to get a good break over the last few weeks. With September here and schools about to return, it feels like we’re about to face many familiar pressures over the autumn. Although case numbers are rising, we are fortunate that the vaccinations are doing their job and we’re not seeing a parallel rise in hospitalisations or deaths. However, in many areas, we are seeing numbers that are putting additional pressures on the NHS and colleagues across public health, adult and children’s services. As Rachel Wigglesworth, Director of Public Health for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, put it: “Living with Covid is not the same as pretending it doesn’t exist, and I think that’s what has happened.” With government taking a resolutely hands off approach, it is left to local authorities to try to manage the impacts on local services. It is truly a time to be courteous and kind.

Many colleagues are reporting recruitment, resource and capacity issues. There is a really mixed picture on income streams, with some authorities reporting parking and public transport use returning to normal, while others have huge concerns about ongoing budget deficits. There is no doubt that people have developed new shopping patterns over the last 18 months and we are yet to see whether these changes are here to stay. We will be taking the message to government that many of their policy priorities such as levelling up, net zero, planning and post-Covid recovery depend on place services. Without meaningful support, and with the very real likelihood of local authorities having little option other than to divert scant resources to social care, we are looking at huge problems for 2022 and beyond, with little to no capacity to fulfil government asks.

We have meetings scheduled with senior officials in MHCLG and BEIS and we will be talking to ADPH, ADASS and ADCS about opportunities for joint messaging in our respective dialogues with government. Elsewhere, the Blueprint coalition has submitted its response to the Environmental Audit Committee request for submissions on the NAO report on local government and net zero. You can read it here. We are preparing an analysis of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan to share with colleagues in DfT. We also have a meeting in the diary with LCRIG.

Our latest Climate Change blog is an overview from Hannah Bartram on the recent joint ADEPT/CIPFA webinar, Building the business case for renewable energy. From how to begin assessing your potential for renewable energy projects to different models for financing projects, there was a lot of food for thought. You can find the webinar recoding here and the slides here.

The latest Live Labs blog is from Matt Waning at Cumbria who talks about their exciting partnership with Shell and the first trial of one of its bitumen products in Europe. The material is derived from waste plastic and has the potential to offer significant CO2 savings, potentially up to 40%. This month we have also had a blog from Phil Skegg, Live Labs Commissioning Board member and Ringway representative. Phil talks about the power of partnership and what the programme has learnt about blocks to innovation and how to tackle them. You can read Phil’s insightful blog here.

The latest blog from the Excellence in Place Leadership programme comes from Llewelyn Morgan, Head of Innovation at Oxfordshire County Council. The third session was focused on organisational renewal, something that is proving very timely amid discussion of hybrid working models and reimaging how we work. You can read Llewellyn’s blog here and find out more about the session here. This year’s EiPL programme ends this month, and we are about to start recruiting for the 2022 programme.

A reminder that registration is open for the 2021 National Traffic Managers Conference, which will be held at the Leicester Tigers’ Welford Road stadium on 13th October. Find out more here and book your place here. Booking is also open for the ADEPT Autumn Conference, 18 – 19 November, which will be a great opportunity to meet in person. Have a look at the draft programme for Climate, Recovery and Renewal - looking ahead to a decade of action, which will be held at the Apex Hotel in Bath and book your place here.

Finally, keep checking our COVID-19 updates page for news, as well as the ADEPT website, where we publish a whole range of updates and documents to support members.