What it has been like working through the crisis in local government

A RedQuadrant consultant writes

Lots of different experiences of the current lockdown, even in the same LA! I thought I’d share mine.

Thank God for ICT software being hosted in the cloud. Without this, contact centre staff would probably have had to come in to keep essential services going. With this, the majority of the council can work from home.

We have never been so busy, and this is in an already fast-paced council. From setting up Covid-19 assistance packages in partnership with the voluntary sector, to weekend working. From thousands of new benefit claims to working hard but sensitively on collecting business rates and council tax money owed so people don’t get into avoidable debt. To organising all of the payments of grants to businesses, under a political spotlight. From government directives changing twice daily on the above. From huge local and national political scrutiny on how we are supporting people to stay safe – both colleagues and customers – nothing matters more. Reviewing transformation work and deciding it should all still go ahead, and working hard to meet the timescales. From seeing colleagues’ spare bedrooms, kitchens and children, and cuddly toys from the most unexpected of people! Daily briefings to be delivered early each morning on the impacts on customers and residents. Increased productivity from homeworking. Benefit claims paid on the same day. Contact centre volumes up but answering times down. Everyone pulling together for their council and place. Server and software issues, timelags on video calls between speech and face showing colleagues laughing while you’re delivering bad news.

I honestly can’t think of anything anyone has been asked to do that they have refused. No wondering where someone may be and if they can make your meeting – we are all at home working with shared diaries. Wonderful team working and across services. Job roles, employment status and hierarchies less important than making things happen and removing barriers. Compassion and humanity for bereaved colleagues. Sickness down, annual leave down – all hands on deck.

We have never been so busy.