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‘Our focus is moving from response to recovery’

Created on 25/03/2021 @ 07:24

This week marks the anniversary of the council’s decision to invoke its Business Continuity Plan in response to the impending Coronavirus Pandemic.

Little did we imagine when we took that decision on March 18, 2020 that 12 months later, we would still be working that way with our focus firmly fixed on critical activities and other non-urgent work taking a lower priority.

This week we saw the anniversary of the national lock-down, a significant event that was marked up and down the country as we paid tribute to those that we have lost during the pandemic. Powys has seen more than 200 Covid-19 deaths and well over 4,000 cases – each death is a tragedy for a family somewhere in the county.

We must pay tribute to colleagues in health and social care, not just for the way they worked during the pandemic but for the amazing work taking place rolling out the mass vaccination programme. We have played our part by providing support in arranging vaccine appointments, and one of our leisure centres is a mass vaccination centre.

The county has passed 60,000 first dose vaccines and almost 20,000 successful second dose appointments. Case rates for the county are currently below 40 cases per 100,000 population and are now below the 50 case per 100,000 red zone.  

Away from Covid it has been a busy start to the year, preparing the annual budget which was approved last month. Council tax bills will be hitting doormats in the county in the coming weeks, with a smaller increase than we had first discussed.

The council received additional Welsh Government funding which reduced pressure on our resources and allowed us to approve a 2.9% increase in council tax and set up a Covid Recovery Fund which will operate over the next two years.

There have been significant developments in our priority work as we signed heads of terms for the Mid Wales Growth Deal, unlocking £110m in UK and Welsh Government funding. The move was boosted in the Budget when the Chancellor announced that the funding from UK Government would be provided over 10 years not 15 – effectively an extra £1.8m per year over the period. The news was part of a £93m package supporting City and Growth Deals in Wales.  

The UK government’s announcement that they will also be providing funding for a new rail testing site on the county’s border with Neath Port Talbot is also very welcome. The Global Centre of Rail Excellence has the potential to provide a significant boost to the economy of a region hit by the decline of coal.

Slowly our focus is moving from responding to the Coronavirus pandemic to recovery. It will be a slow process and there is much to do. The pandemic has hit everyone hard, the human, financial toll has been high, and recovery will take time.

Hopefully, we are nearing the end of this dreadful disease, but we are not there yet and we all still have a role to play to stop the spread of coronavirus. Staying vigilant and following public health advice and maintaining social distancing is as important today as it was last year.

Councillor Rosemarie Harris


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