The impact of COVID-19 on our local communities poses serious and complex challenges for public services and their partners. The crisis has already led to major changes in the way in which local authorities, health, community and private sector partners work together. This has involved huge challenges, but it seems to be creating significant opportunities also. The innovations, the willingness to work together, the focus on a common purpose. These are hard won silver linings in the face of such misery. The Centre for Partnering will try to support those involved in making the most of these advances, and refusing to return to the old business as usual.

There are 3 key areas in which this COVID-19 crisis will require long term change.

1. While there is no reason to return to a policy of austerity, clearly the capital outlay required to cope with the crisis will impact on the state’s revenue for years to come. Local authorities and their partners will need to become ever more productive.

2.  The pandemic has demonstrated the fundamental reliance of public services on procurement and commissioning. These are complex chains of supply whose strengths and weaknesses have been laid bare in the response to this crisis.

3. A critical weakness in these partnership relationships has been their empty, transactional nature. Where public services have thicker, more meaningful relationships with their partners, they tend to be more resilient in good times and in bad.

These issues will form a central part of the Centre for Partnering’s research agenda in coming months.