Throughout the pandemic we have seen numerous examples of neighbourliness and mutual support in communities, and a new-found openness and can-do spirit in public services. If we can work out how to harness this spirit the crisis will not have been wasted. So says a cross-party group of MPs in Together Again.
The essayists include Boris Johnson’s former adviser, Danny Kruger, now MP for Devizes and parliamentary private secretary in the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Rachael Maskell MP, Labour shadow minister for the voluntary sector, and Tim Farron MP, former leader of the Liberal Democrats.
They, and George Freeman MP (Mid Norfolk) Jo Gideon MP (Stoke on Trent Central), Stephen Kinnock MP (Aberavon) and Layla Moran MP (Oxford West and Abingdon), review the response to the first Covid lockdown, finding that there is more social capital in their very different constituencies than might have otherwise been apparent.
Shared recommendations identified by the report include:
- Government and particularly local authorities work best coordinating, funding and supporting, rather than managing and attempting to lead the voluntary sector.
- We should not be afraid to empower individuals and volunteers who do not have formal mandates, and give local economies more economic and fiscal freedoms.
- Volunteering pathways need actively to be promoted to encourage first time volunteering including through schools, workplaces and job centres.
- Initiatives by street, cul-de-sac, village and Parish are often more impactful and more cost effective than centralised schemes, even managed at local authority level .
- Public bodies should be less ‘sniffy’ about partnering with faith organisations.
- Emergency decision-making procedures put in place for the course of the pandemic should not automatically be abandoned or competitive tendering reintroduced.