Taking the first steps to recovery

Over the weekend, the city’s parks and recreational areas were busy with visitors, drawn by the good weather – and, of course, the easing of COVID-19 restrictions.

That people are again able to enjoy Aberdeen’s magnificent public spaces is a cause for celebration. To simply feel the sun on your face and be surrounded by the sounds of a community re-energised is the lift everyone needed this summer.

That said, the move into Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s “route map” should in no way be regarded as a relaxing of vigilance. Health and hygiene rules must still be adhered to. The virus hasn’t washed its hands of us.

But the city has at least rediscovered its sparkle and smile.

What is less obvious is the enormous amount of work that has gone into readying Aberdeen for the journey ahead.

In a sense the launch of the route map, hugely welcome though it is, presents us as a local authority with as many challenges as the lockdown did. The priority then was to ensure our most vulnerable residents were protected and supported, and to halt the spread of COVID-19 and stop health services being overwhelmed.

As we enter the recovery stage, the health and wellbeing of people remains the overriding priority, but the public will increasingly look to us to manage the safe transition back to normality. Preparing for the re-opening of schools in August, recycling, grass cutting, helping activity resume in the city centre and businesses restart – the list is long, but the work is already well under way.

In truth, the Council’s contribution has never really stopped. We have continued to carry out emergency road repairs, for example, but routine maintenance had to be paused in response to COVID-19 lockdown rules. There is therefore a backlog. Similarly, for grass cutting.

Taking another example, opening up the city centre is a massively complex task. The period between applying for the necessary funding and being given the green light was but a matter of days.

There will be frustrations as measures to preserve physical distancing in line with government guidance are put in place. We may not get everything right and that’s why we have launched a consultation, so we can constantly learn and improve.

The route map, remember, is only a guide. We may need to improvise as a country and in turn as a local authority. We may even have to go back a step or two or hold station until the fog of this pandemic lifts a little more and the path ahead clears.

The nation’s response to COVID-19 has revealed the basic decency in people. Anarchy didn’t break out. We cared about each other, finding reserves of compassion and patience.

Going forward, we’re going to need those very human qualities.

As a society we will have to be more tolerant. Ready to queue in shops, to wait longer for appointments. To be more understanding about how public services are delivered and the constraints, financial and operational, all local authorities face. We needed to be prepared to do more for ourselves and our neighbours.

The Council’s response to COVID-19 has reaffirmed the essential rightness of our Local Outcome Improvement Plan and the value of partnership working, while the Council’s new Target Operating Model enshrines the principles to guide us as we build back better.

We’d encourage everyone to learn about what we’re doing to reinstate services and the public’s role in the weeks and months ahead, as well as the support still on offer for those affected by COVID-19. Please share the link below with family and friends: