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Leader provides update in his latest column

Posted on 13 May 2020

I’d like to start my latest column by thanking the people of North Ayrshire for their kindness and support over the last eight weeks.

 None of us are finding this easy but only by working together, and by following the guidelines, can we overcome this awful disease.

 While the messaging on the lockdown may be changing in England, the message in Scotland remains “stay at home” to save lives. This is the first real divergence from a four nations message, which may run the risk of sending mixed messages, but Scotland, as a devolved nation, can take a different approach and with our all important “R rate” being above that in England we must follow the advice we are being given as a nation.

 The only change in the guidance in Scotland is that we are allowed out for exercise more than once a day. Being confined to your home is not easy, particularly for those without gardens, so exercise is an important way to look after our physical and mental wellbeing but we must stress – please continue to exercise local. The police continue to report people travelling to our coast, from as far afield as Airdrie this time, to take advantage of our beautiful area but for all our sakes please continue to follow the guidance, only if we do that will such restrictions on travel be able to be lifted.

 It’s inevitable that you will have been watching the news or checking social media over the last few weeks and its been distressing and unsettling.

I don’t want to focus too much on the national picture in these columns, it is not the right forum for me to pass opinion on the handling of Covid-19 by central government.  What I want to focus on is the work being carried out in North Ayrshire and more generally by local authorities across Scotland.

One of the untold stories of this crisis, so far, has been the effectiveness of local government in responding to these challenging times. Whilst the response from central government has often felt as slow as attempting to turn an oil tanker on a narrow road, local government has been incredibly responsive, showing its ability to be flexible in the delivery of public services. In the case of our response to Covid-19, North Ayrshire Council literally devised new services and had them operational within a matter of days.

Whilst many waited weeks to receive shielding letters, offering advice and support, our Council was setting up our community hubs and delivering food packs.

 There is no better illustration of how responsive the Council has been than the milestone we reached last week on the delivery of meals – delivering the equivalent of over 500,000 meals in the first seven weeks of lockdown is a huge achievement.

We’ve reached that milestone because we are delivering over 4,500 food packs a week to people’s doors, whilst the national food scheme is doing around 140 packs a week in North Ayrshire.

That underlines the monumental effort of our staff to support our communities through this crisis. As I have said already in these columns, they truly are public service heroes and we, as elected members, are forever indebted to them for the support they have offered our constituents through this.

 But its not just through the delivery of food that we are supporting those who are ‘shielding’, I want to acknowledge the efforts of the community hubs but also all those in our contact centre, Connected Communities team and the Health and Social Care Partnership who have been involved in contacting and supporting these residents. Again, whilst this group were waiting for their national shielding letter, these teams were already supporting them so a massive thank you to them.

 This is not exhaustive list of our response to Covid-19, we are continuing to carry out other essential services, in the most difficult of times. I’ve been blown away by how quickly the council, and Scottish local government more generally, adapted. For me, it has emphasised the need for a more empowered, well-resourced local state as we have demonstrated we are the tier of government most able to respond to local need and emerging challenges.

 My promise to our residents is that we will continue to do our very best for you during and beyond these awful times.

 I mentioned last week that we will launching our Community Wealth Building Strategy this Thursday. This is hugely important for everyone in North Ayrshire and maps out wholesome changes we are going to make to the local economy. We want to spend locally, support local businesses and use our assets to help create a resilient and diverse business base that can help us move forward now and post Covid-19.

 Join us on Facebook from 6.30pm where we will provide more details.