COVID 19 - Forward Recovery Planning
The report of the Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer is now enclosed.
A report of the Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer provided the Executive with an overview of forward planning work for the city’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. This included preparations which were already underway to manage the phased opening up of the city and planning for the longer term challenges.
The report outlined proposals to reset and reposition the Our Manchester Strategy 2016 -2025 to respond to the post COVID-19 challenges the city now faced, starting with a consultation which was rooted in the Our Manchester approach.
The areas of work outlined in the report included:
· Economy – planning to support the economic recovery of the city, including support for businesses, supporting residents to develop skills and get back into employment, promoting residential and commercial development and transport planning;
· Residents and communities – including addressing poverty, supporting vulnerable residents, building community resilience and relationships, supporting the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector and understanding and addressing how the crisis was impacting on different groups; and
· Impact on the Council and Public Services – including Health and Social Care, Public Service Reform, changing ways of working and the financial impact of the crisis.
The report stated that this would be supported by:
· Evidence base and impact for each of the above workstreams;
· External relationships with a range of key partners; and
· The reset of the Our Manchester Strategy
The proposed terms of reference for the COVID-19 Recovery Coordination Group were appended to the report.
The Leader introduced the item, highlighting the challenges the city would face, in particular the predicted impact of the crisis on unemployment levels. He advised that an Executive Member would lead on each area of this work, alongside a senior responsible officer. He reported that it was important to both keep people safe and ensure that they felt safe.
The Deputy Leader advised Members that the world had changed significantly since the Our Manchester Strategy was developed in 2015 and that it needed to be reviewed to take into account the COVID-19 crisis, the impact of Brexit and the increasing priority being given to addressing climate change. He outlined the proposed approach and timeline for this review, involving consultation with stakeholders, with a revised strategy to be submitted to the Executive for approval in early 2021.
The Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration thanked staff in the Growth and Development service for their work. She emphasised the importance of building and development for the city’s economic recovery and updated Members on housing building, particularly the building of affordable housing, including confirmation of £51 million in housing infrastructure funding for the Northern Gateway project and discussions with existing housing providers were ongoing to understand the challenges they were facing due to COVID-19. She informed Members that an update on the establishment of a housing delivery vehicle would be provided to the Executive’s meeting in June 2020. She stated that the Council was committed to supporting and working with developers who shared its vision of safe, secure, quality, affordable housing and to getting the city building again.
The Executive Member for Environment, Planning and Transport reported that use of all forms of public transport had decreased dramatically since the start of the COVID-19 crisis and that car use had also reduced, although some key workers had switched from using public transport to driving to work due to concerns about transmission of COVID-19 on public transport. She informed Members that air quality had improved significantly due to fewer vehicles being on the road but that people who could not work from home needed to be able to travel to work safely. Enabling them to do so was a priority for the Council and its partners; looking closely at national guidance. She thanked transport workers, highways staff and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) for their work. She advised Members that enabling people to walk safely while observing social distancing was also a priority, that a decision had already been taken to close part of Deansgate in the city centre to vehicles and that the Council was looking at what measures could be taken in local district centres, in consultation with Ward Councillors.
The Leader informed Members that colleagues in Public Health, Environmental Health and the Health Service were working together to develop proposals on contact tracing and mass testing, which would complement the work taking place at a national level.
The Executive Member for Finance and Human Resources informed Members that, since the Council’s budget had been approved on 6 March 2020, the situation had changed drastically. He highlighted some of the financial challenges which were detailed in the report submitted to the Executive and expressed concern that the additional funding being provided by the national government would not cover the full impact of the COVID-19 crisis. He advised that, due to the economic uncertainty, escalating costs and loss of income arising from this crisis, the budget would need to be reviewed and a detailed report would be brought to the Executive’s meeting in July 2020.
The Chief Executive thanked the Leader, Executive Members and Council staff for all their work, emphasising that this was still an ongoing effort to respond to the situation and plan for the future of the city. She highlighted the importance of considering what data could be put into the public domain, taking into account the rapidly changing nature of the situation.
The Deputy Chief Executive and City Treasurer also added her thanks to those expressed earlier. She advised Members that the Council had received funding which would cover a lot of the additional costs incurred this year but that she was concerned about the impact of the crisis on the Council’s income streams including business rates, council tax, dividends and commercial income and that this impact would be felt in the next financial year. She assured Members that significant work was taking place to address all the areas outlined in the report.
The Leader informed Members that the Leader of the Opposition was experiencing technical difficulties that were making his continued participation in the meeting difficult. The Leader therefore offered that any questions or comments he wished to make would be added to the public record. He informed Members that discussions would be taking place with the Chairs of the Scrutiny Committees about what form scrutiny would take during this period, recognising that the usual requirement for officers to produce several reports each month was not practical at present.
1. To note the approach to the forward planning work and the establishment of the COVID-19 Recovery Coordination Group and its terms of reference.
2. To approve the preparatory work required to plan for a formal reset of the Our Manchester Strategy 2016-2025.
3. To note the work that is taking place through Greater Manchester, the UK Core Cities, and to influence the Government.
4. To receive monthly update reports on this work as a standing item, given the dynamic and rapidly changing nature of the situation.