Council pledges to keep working with community projects post-pandemic

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Council chiefs have pledged to continue their work with community projects in Argyll and Bute after a watchdog called for public bodies to build on their response to the pandemic.

An update by the Accounts Commission and Audit Scotland highlighted the authority’s work in the community since the Covid-19 outbreak and has now called for the momentum to be maintained by councils across Scotland, alongside a determination not to return to pre-pandemic ways of working.

In response to the call, Argyll and Bute Council highlighted many examples of its work with communities since March 2020.

A spokesperson for the council said: ‘We worked with our partners throughout the pandemic to deliver our communities with a range of support services.

‘There was huge pressure placed on local businesses and restrictions on how to trade during lockdown and one of the many things we did to help was establish a town centre recovery group during the first weeks of the pandemic.

‘This included representatives across council services, the police and the private sector, and allowed quick actions to be taken to enable businesses to diversify and adapt to meet customer needs.

‘For example, easing the need for planning consents and enabling more use of outdoor space including on council land.

‘These meetings led to further initiatives including a shop local campaign, shopfront grants, permanent improvements to outdoor spaces and digital apps/platforms to help local business prosper and provide information to their customers.’

The spokesperson added: ‘Our joint approach to protecting the most vulnerable people in our society also led to our Community Food Project beating off industry giants to win a national award.

‘We have continued to work at pace on the development and delivery of the Covid-19 Micro Grant Fund for village halls and community organisations.

‘This fund was set up to help communities to recover from the impacts of Covid-19 and find safe ways to bring people together.

‘Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our society and we continue to meet with community response groups on a monthly basis to identify their needs and escalate concerns to partners and other services as required.’

Geraldine Wooley from the Accounts Commission said: ‘Covid-19 made some public bodies quickly deliver services differently. In many places, voluntary sector organisations were able to work at pace and with a greater freedom to support their communities.

‘Community organisations across Scotland have a depth of understanding about local needs, that we should continue to tap into.

‘They were able to identify those who were most vulnerable, bringing insight into very local issues. Their ability to quickly maximise local knowledge and connections was crucial in the local response.

‘We urge councils to build on this and not return to business as usual. Truly empowered communities are vital in helping reduce the disadvantage and inequalities that have become more severe because of Covid-19.’