Latest update from Leader
Posted on 27 May 2020
We are into another week of our ‘new normal’ and I hope everyone is adjusting and coping with what is a strange and often difficult time.
Every situation is different and every individual faces different challenges and experiences. It’s really important that we continue to look out for each other and show compassion and support to our colleagues, friends and family.
My ‘new normal’ will be fairly similar to many others with a young family. The demands of looking after a new-born baby and an inquisitive and excitable five-year old are challenging at the best of times. But lockdown and working from home throw in a whole new set of challenges.
Most of us who are working from home will know how difficult that can be when you have kids in the house. I can’t tell you the amount of times my daughter Rosie has gate-crashed one of my online meetings. Council officers are now used to having a regular conversation with a 5-year-old desperate to get back to nursery to see her friends – apologies to our Education director, Audrey Sutton, for the extra pressure being applied by Rosie!
There’s also been the odd ‘political meeting’ where she has saw my dad, affectionately known as ‘Papa Monkey’, taking part which certainly makes the meetings more interesting. At least she is showing an interest in politics at an early age…
In the ‘old normal’ I would be spending much of my time at Cunninghame House or in meetings, or undertaking visits, across the region with various groups and bodies.
You miss the social interaction when working from home, but it’s also been incredible how we are now using technology to connect with people from across the world – for example, last Wednesday, Joe Guinan of the Democracy Collaborative, took part in our first Community Wealth Building expert panel meeting from his home in Washington.
Being in lockdown has dramatically changed how I go about my role as Council Leader but it has still been incredibly busy with much of the agenda relating to Covid-19.
This week is another busy one for me. Monday morning saw me take part in the NHS Ayrshire and Arran Health Board meeting.
In the afternoon, I was on an online conference call with senior officers at the Council. These meetings have been taking place between three and five times a week since the lockdown at the end of March. There is so much happening across every service and department impacted by this pandemic.
On Tuesday, I had a meeting of Community Wealth Building Council Leaders from across the UK, hosted by CLES. These meetings are to discuss and advance the practice of Community Wealth Building, sharing ideas and best practice as we all work to change the economy. This week’s meeting focussed on a number of policy papers published by CLES and the Democracy Collaborative on the economic recovery from Covid-19.
On Wednesday morning, I will chair the meeting of the Universal Basic Income Councillor Group. This group has been set up to explore the feasibility of Basic Income pilots in North Ayrshire, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Fife and is attended by councillors from all four local authorities. We have now reached the stage where the final feasibility study has been written and this meeting will review it and discuss next steps. I am sure there will be considerable interest in the final report as Basic Income is an idea that has been discussed extensively in response to Covid-19.
I have been clear, we are not going to be returning to ‘normal’ for a long time and when we do it could be very different to how we used to operate. We will be appointing a Renewal Chief Officer to help us navigate through this and on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning I am chairing the Staffing and Recruitment committee interviews for this post. In the coming weeks, I will be refreshing my cabinet roles to reflect the post Covid-19 world and our emerging priorities such as Community Wealth Building.
On Friday, I will be taking part in the fortnightly COSLA Leaders meeting. This crisis has shown local government at its best, being responsive and effective in meeting the emerging needs of its citizens. I will be attending this meeting to ensure the role of local government is being recognised at this time and to fight for the resources that we need to continue doing our job in supporting you, our residents.
I am looking forward to another hectic week and, like always, feel extremely fortunate to be able to influence what we are doing across North Ayrshire at this challenging time.
But I will find the time for my family, and a book or two, as staring at a screen and talking Covid-19 for hours can be extremely draining.
Please take care of yourself and those around you.