COVID-19: Top tips for council leaders

Resource for council leaders who have experienced intervention followed by negotiations to enter into ‘high’ or ‘very high’ local alert level as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

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The content below was published during the time of national restrictions and refers to local lockdown measures implemented at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and onwards.

Dear Leader,

Thank you for taking the time to read this valuable resource of top tips and interviews from leaders who have experienced intervention followed by negotiations to enter into ‘high’ or ‘very high’ local alert level. It is a reflection of the leaders’ experiences and the advice that they would like to offer leaders.

Local Authorities across the country have worked incredibly hard to respond to the challenges and are well equipped with knowledge and expertise to do so.

The Local Government Association (LGA) continues to work on further support to leaders as well as whole councils more generally. Please keep an eye on our bulletins and social media for upcoming webinars and opportunities for shared learning. Please contact or your Principal Adviser if there is anything that we can assist you with.

Most importantly, stay safe.

Kind regards,

Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman

Top Tips

Be flexible as leader of place

Be prepared to respond to newly emerging challenges to community cohesion.

Be pragmatic to adapt long standing messages in the light of the pandemic to keep strong engagement and understanding in the community.

Community leadership

Consider how to use your important role as a community leader to effectively communicate and engage with all of your community.

Get to know your local volunteer base. Do what you can to enable, support and make best use of that community spirit.

Draw on your role as representative for your ward to ensure you are working with and for your community at the most local level.

Know your data

Value your local data. Although national and regional data have their value only local data captures the granularity required to respond at pace and plan ahead in your local area.

Take everyone on the journey with you

Brief all of your councillors regularly and quickly so that they are best prepared to engage with their communities, partners and central government contacts.

Ensure key members including leaders of opposition groups and scrutiny members are engaged and informed on the actions the council are taking.

Tailor direct communications to the different parts of the council to ensure the important pieces of information is landing in a way that makes sure the right people have the right information.

Know your council

Have a good overview of the teams within your council in terms of their roles in response to the pandemic. This will enable you to have a good insight into who is best place to provide the knowledge and expertise and also ensure you are well sighted on the key issues and risks.

Identify where long standing and trusted relationships already exist with stakeholders including from Government and make best use of those.

Bring officers with expertise along to meetings with stakeholders for their knowledge and insights. Think about how you can make the best use of the expertise of your officers and members.

Look after yourself

Councillors may be at risk of receiving intimidation from the public, particularly in these times that are challenging for so many. Councillors are encouraged to keep a record of any intimidatory communication or behaviour and be mindful that contact with unknown or anonymous individuals should be undertaken with care. Please see the Councillors' guide to handling intimidation for further guidance.

Communicate directly with the community

Communicate with and through influencers in the area and community leaders to ensure the widest possible messaging. Ensure messaging on the actions to respond to the pandemic is focussed on why you are taking the measures, not just what the measures are.

Ensure your messaging is consistent.

Engage with local businesses

'Engaging with businesses is essential for enforcement'

Ensure you make best use of the business intelligence available to you.

Work across partnerships

Nurture and maintain a culture of no surprises both within your authority and with partner organisations.

Collaborate to ensure that all local leaders and partners are putting across consistent messaging.

Be seen to be working together by the community.

Be confident

Promote the strength of the local knowledge of the council and the effectiveness of work of frontline services.

Be confident of your role as leader of place when liaising with regional structures as well as when engaging with central government. Build relationships with ministers where the opportunity arises.

Focus on the outcomes

Focus on the future and long-term plans. The journey to economic recovery will be different in each community and the impact of the pandemic needs to be considered from both short term and long-term perspectives.