My first week as ADEPT President has been a busy one. I never thought my first big role would be to don the Lycra, get on my bike and do an interview with BBC’s Countryfile, but that’s exactly what I did. Never say ADEPT isn’t without surprises.
I was invited to talk about how local authorities are responding to the Government’s plan for increased cycling and walking provision and how we are approaching the reallocation of road space. There was a concern that the challenges faced by rural areas might not be addressed if rapid policy change is simply shaped by the experiences of urban areas, and indeed, this is one of ADEPT’s concerns across a variety of transport issues.
We all know there is a huge gulf in the provision of bus services in rural and urban areas. Coronavirus and the need for social distancing has exacerbated these differences considerably. ADEPT is working with DfT to ensure that it understands the unique challenges faced by a rural bus service, where the next bus might be in an hour, a day or even a week’s time. As people go back to work and critically, when schools return to full capacity in September, we cannot afford to overlook the experiences of our towns and villages.
We’re also working with DFT and MHCLG to enable park and pedal, and on how pop up cycleways might be managed. But by far the most contentious issue with the public has been the reallocation of road space. With changes moving at pace, building consensus - usually a 2-year process – is a new challenge for all place directors, having to do it in 2 weeks. The impacts of Covid-19 and the need to enable social distancing require us to be fast and flexible, so effective communications with the public are key. People are reconnecting with their local areas and inevitably, they will rethink how they live their lives – how they travel to work, get the kids to school, and access their local high street. These changes are happening almost without people realising, but we cannot be seen to be imposing changes from above. We must build the case for change, and gain consent for action quickly.
Finally, on transport, the second iteration of the Safe Operating Procedure for the highways maintenance sector has been published. Do keep an eye on the ADEPT’s COVID-19 updates page for our latest publications and news related to our work on the impacts of coronavirus.
This week we our issuing our first survey specifically for Household Waste and Recycling Centres. It’s designed to get a picture of what the new normal for HWRCs looks like and has been created with the LGA, NAWDO, LARAC and LWARB, so please check your inboxes. Our usual weekly waste impacts survey, which will be published this week after a May Bank holiday break.
Another critically important element of our work is the Economic Recovery and Renewal Task Force. EY has been working on an evidence paper on the emerging themes, both opportunities and risks, as we go through the current crisis. It complements the member survey undertaken before the ADEPT Spring conference in May. Excitingly, we have also started work on scoping out a new Live Labs programme designed to examine how local authorities can lead innovation in addressing climate change within the context of COVID-19 recovery and renewal. Watch this space!
It’s a real honour to take up the mantle of ADEPT President. I want to build on Darryl’s work to support a vibrant association and to advance the joint position with our fellow professional associations - the Association of Directors of Public Health, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Association of Directors of Children’s Services. We all understand the preventative role of place when it comes to easing pressure on health and social care, we need to continue to make the case with Government. A bigger funding pot for local authorities is essential to recovery from Covid-19.
We know what our places need and how best to invest resources for the biggest returns. If we are going to go beyond recovery from Covid-19, to reset and renew our places. This week we will publish ADEPT’s Clean Growth Policy Position, setting out our thoughts on how we go forward. It’s not enough just to go back to what we had before, even if we could. We need to enable clean and inclusive growth and particularly in the light of this week’s protests, to support our diverse communities and invest in the future of our extraordinary places.