In the final section of our recovery plan – “The Way Forward” – we take a look at what must be done to avoid any downturn having long lasting impacts across the wider GM community.
One overriding element of this crisis has been the coming together to support community activity. There is now better recognition of the great work already going on as well as the huge gaps that exist in social care, education, health and wellbeing.
The very real danger is that, as a result of economic conditions, there will be additional unemployment in potentially record numbers, young people in particular, and even less funding all adding to the strain on existing and newly vulnerable groups of society.
This has to, and can be avoided.
Greater Manchester has a thriving social enterprise sector, has a history of innovative working, and recognises the importance of social value, adding back into communities and protecting those in need. In the immediate recovery period this approach to working may be more influential and necessary than ever before.
The lockdown period has forced many to consider how they shop and there has been a surge in businesses changing their models quickly to fill gaps and address demand as well as restart the idea of local delivery for local produce, an example has been the sudden spike in demand for traditional “milkmen”. Local businesses and people working right at the heart of communities.
This period may see greater national government involvement than anticipated across a range of areas and sectors. The government has already proven that it is willing to step in where necessary to avert crises and offer direct help. At a local level, strong leadership, focussed on where help is most needed, will be crucial in ensuring that long term damage is limited. Local on-the-ground guidance and support will be crucial in helping deliver recovery measures swiftly and efficiently.
During the lockdown period much has been made around the environmental impact. With fewer vehicles on the roads and more people walking and cycling this has created a good opportunity to revisit the low-carbon work being done in Greater Manchester. This was an area that was a priority prior to Covid-19 and one that offers not just health benefits now but growth opportunities for business too with the associated benefits for residents and others in the city region.
There exists a short window of opportunity to use the consequences of the crisis to embed a way of “normal” working net-zero, green practices that beforehand could have proven too disruptive.
It is vital that whatever comes out of this is for all of GM not just the city centre. There must be an underlying awareness of what is realistic and achievable.
The challenges and impacts will increase over time and will add to existing inequalities if not addressed. Our ambition should not just be on those recently affected by the fallout form Covid but should be bold and strong enough to do something for those already left behind prior to the pandemic. That is how we should do things in Greater Manchester – we didn’t achieve it before but we have to do it now.
ISSUES TO CONSIDER:
- How could office/workspace that is left vacant through downsizing or business failure be best utilised and converted for community use? How could rebuilt/repurposed local centres deliver engagement with the wider communities (following health guidelines).
- Is there opportunity to use the changes to how people shop and the impact on High Streets to drive forward a new wave of community business?
- How can the impending rise in youth unemployment be tackled quickly and effectively to best pre-empt the spike and what new ways of work, training and upskilling involving business, training providers and local government could be introduced?
- How could existing social issues be tackled within activity specifically in place to address Covid-19 economic impacts? What’s the best way to ensure that focussed action and results do not get dragged down and delayed by the drive to invent new schemes, hindered by paperwork and “back office” red tape?
- What’s the best way of making the most of volunteering opportunities – even for those in work - to help get charities back on their feet, direct help in the community and assist people who may still be shielded and will require help and assistance.
- How can we re-engineer the low carbon agenda to take advantage of the opportunities from the pandemic in making people think about how they work, travel and undertake leisure activities?
The Chamber will be setting up a task group to look at this issue and if you want to take part let me know on the e-mail below. Likewise if you have any comments or ideas on this again please get in touch.