East Lothian Council has declared that it is moving into the ‘recovery’ phase of the COVD-19 pandemic but highlighted that services continue to face a number of significant challenges.
These include impacts from the war in Ukraine, hyper-inflation and a challenging labour market.
The move to recovery, which takes effect from 13 June, means that the council as a whole is no longer operating under business continuity arrangements. However, it is highly likely that a number of individual services/teams will invoke their own specific business continuity arrangements to focus on maintaining critical services.
- Whilst COVID-19 restrictions have mainly lifted, the council continues to experience acute pressures on staffing levels – something which is currently also impacting on businesses as diverse as airlines, hospitality providers the NHS and local authorities.
- Recruitment challenges are being experienced with a number of vacancies existing in the context of a difficult labour market to recruit from. The council also continues to experience staff absence – some of this still related to COVID-19.
- In recent weeks and months, some services (such as libraries) are having to operate on reduced hours and have been subject to change in provision at short notice.
Chief Executive Monica Patterson said:
“Throughout the pandemic and periods of lockdown, East Lothian Council has managed to continue to provide essential services required by those most vulnerable in our communities. This has partly been achieved by the willingness and flexibility of employees taking on new roles on a temporary basis to ensure such continuity of service. Local residents and volunteers also played an important and vital role in looking out for and caring for their fellow citizens.
“With restrictions largely having been lifted and everyone trying to get back onto an even keel, it is the right time to move from ‘response’ to ‘recovery’ mode. However, like many other organisations we continue to face big challenges with staff absence, vacancies and inflationary pressures. We are being as adaptable as we can.
“For example, to ensure the continued operation of our Contact Centre which provides essential services 24/7 including an Emergency Community Alarm service, we have had staff from others areas of Customer Service offering to work there and cover vacancies. This has been greatly appreciated by the Council Management Team and of course our service users who rely on such support.
“In looking to the future we are keen to build on our transformation programme, embracing opportunities to deliver services as efficiently as possible whilst working in new ways. That’s why we have introduced new flexible working policies and are undertaking an asset review looking at how we can make the best possible use of buildings to maximise use of digital technology, support flexible working and address the challenges of climate change.
“East Lothian Council is the largest single employer in the county and the new working practices are helping to attract people to work here who may live some distance away. In many ways it is an exciting time at work and we are committed to ensuring we remain an employer of choice and favoured destination for future job applicants.
“We are recruiting to key posts and I would encourage people interested to consider applying for a role with the council. It’s a great place to work where you can make a real difference in local communities. Vacancies are advertised on the myjobscotland website.
“Filling posts will help us to get back on track and resume some of the activities that we are currently struggling with.”
East Lothian’s Recovery & Renewal Plan
The recovery and renewal from COVID-19 for East Lothian is being led by East Lothian Council, supported by our partner agencies as is normal practice under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (Contingency Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2005.
East Lothian’s Recovery & Renewal Plan was approved by Council in November 2021. The plan sets out eight Key Priority Areas:
- Support our communities to tackle inequality and social exclusion
- Respond to the climate and ecological emergency
- Support business and employment and promote inclusive economic growth
- Help our children and young people achieve their potential
- Deliver improved connectivity and digital innovation to ensure the most effective use of our resources
- Maintain and develop resilient and sustainable services
- Develop our people and future ways of working
- Invest in regeneration and a sustainable future
Council Leader Norman Hampshire said:
“The road to full recovery is a long one with many challenges along the way so it remains far from normal at this time. Absences and vacancies are still impacting and this means we are often having to make difficult decisions about the allocation of resources so that we can manage pressures and focus on delivering priority services. The council is not unique in this respect as many public organisations and businesses are experiencing similar difficulties. We are grateful to communities for their understanding and support.
“Recognising the last impact of COVID-19 on society and the extent to which it has exacerbated inequalities, our Recovery and Renewal Plan is focused on recognising that we will need to go further and faster to improve opportunities for those most disadvantaged.
“Having declared a climate emergency we must focus on embedding new ways of working, reducing emissions and pursuing a green recovery.
“We also need to address demands delayed as a result of the pandemic and that are further exacerbated by the negative impacts of the UK leaving the EU. The council’s focus continues to be on need to protect the health and well-being of our residents, focus support for our economy, young people’s education and safeguard those who are vulnerable or isolated.”