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'Radical' COVID recovery plans unveiled by cabinet

‘Radical’ new plans to help the Royal Borough recover from the COVID-19 crisis were revealed by the cabinet this week.

At a Royal Borough cabinet transformation sub-committee on Tuesday, senior members of the cabinet revealed the draft Royal Borough Transformation Strategy 2020-2025, plans which seek to completely transform the way the council operates and how it and residents interact with each other.

The focus of the plan is to create a ‘community-centric borough of opportunity and innovation’, aiming to take advantage of the new ideas the council was forced to come up with to navigate through lockdown.

The wide-reaching plan focuses on six main areas: investing in young people, better supporting older residents, building quality homes, growing a modern and productive economy, creating a green, sustainable borough, and utilising smart, accessible infrastructure.

Speaking at the meeting, council leader Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Waltham and St Lawrence) said: “This is arguably the most innovative piece of policy which this council will be seeking to achieve over the course of the next two-and-a-half years.

“These are solutions that are pioneering and a first in local government.”

One key element of the plan is increasing the council’s interaction with residents. The strategy sets out plans for ‘community-centric design’, with residents rather than experts taking the lead on design projects, asking the experts to then facilitate and provide the tools to make it happen.

Council staff, who are credited as being the council’s ‘greatest asset’, would operate in a new way, being able to work anywhere, at any time, in more creative ways.

The strategy also outlines how the council will ask residents and communities to share ideas on how to improve
services, creating an
environment of ‘shared decision making’.

At the meeting, Cllr Helen Price (TBF, Clewer and Dedworth East), raised the view that the public may not take to the transformations quickly.

She said: “If we are asking the residents to go from having this done for them and to them to actually being the directors, that’s an immense culture change.

“We shouldn’t underestimate the challenge of getting people to think that different mindset, it’s not going to happen by just clicking our finders, it’s going to take time.”

Cllr Donna Stimson (Con, St Mary’s) cabinet member for climate change, sustainability, parks, and countryside called the strategy
‘innovative’ but advised that the council needed to be careful with how it proceeded.

She said: “There’s so much in it that one doesn’t quite know where to start.

“For me, this poses an opportunity and a difficulty because we have to prioritise.”

The strategy was
approved by the panel and will go to cabinet for its approval in November. If it is voted through, the strategy will start getting implemented from November onwards.

To view the draft strategy in full visit bit.ly/3hWq9eU

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