Covid has raised significant questions and challenges across all aspects of how we live, work and play, and with that, how our economies and societies function.
How to respond to the immediate health crisis? When and how to transition out of lockdown and social distancing measures? What to do to restart the economy? How to lessen the economic hardship to come?
These are some of the most pressing and widely discussed challenges facing us, but alongside them sit other fundamental questions that will affect the future of our city and town centres, where we work, how we travel, how we care for people in older age, among many other facets of life. The consequences of how we address these questions will be felt for years and decades to come.
It’s important that local communities are involved in helping to address these challenges – offering their ideas and experiences; helping to make difficult trade-offs; and taking action.
Local authorities are faced with increasingly difficult challenges and choices which will affect local residents – from local lockdowns through to creating resilient economies on restricted budgets. It’s important that local communities are involved in helping to address these challenges – offering their ideas and experiences; helping to make difficult trade-offs; and taking action. In this way, the local authority response to covid will have increased legitimacy and be responsive to the needs of communities.
While the rhetoric has been that “we are all in this together” and that Covid is the “great leveller”, the reality has been very different. The health crisis and economic crisis that is following in its wake is being experienced in very different ways by different parts of our population. It has exacerbated existing inequalities and created new ones.
Hearing the voices of those who are rarely listened to can radically change accepted opinions about what needs to be done.
Government policy and decision-making needs to reflect the diversity of lived experience of Covid. Our understanding and imaginations are limited by our own social experiences – politicians, civil servants, scientific experts are no different. Hearing the voices of those who are rarely listened to can radically change accepted opinions about what needs to be done. Diversity results in better decision-making.
Involving people can also lead to more trustworthy decisions that people are willing to accept. Responding to Covid in a way that gives meaning to the idea that “we are all in this together” entails bringing the “we” into decision-making. When people can see that decisions reflect their lives and interests, trust and acceptance follow.
In short, we need to build back with.