‘Waiting for guidelines’

Since the start of the lockdown the 2 phrases I’ve probably heard most are almost certainly ‘can you hear me now’ and ‘we’re waiting for the guidelines’.

The first with its partner ‘you’re on mute’ is purely evidence of our collective inability to master video technology despite it now being part of everyday life. The latter is more of a concern and result of the large number of meetings I’ve had with the council’s partner organisations to keep up to date with and understand their problems dealing with the pandemic. So many times there has been a government announcement of some sort followed by the period of waiting for the promised guidelines to understand the detailed implications.

The most recent example of this relates to public transport when schools are due to reopen in September. In normal circumstances lots of children travel to school by bus using both special services and also the regular network. The social distancing needed on regular services means they currently have much reduced capacity and so extra buses will be needed to meet likely demand safely when schools reopen. But buses don’t appear by magic and this will take time to organise.

The good news is that the government has announced a £40m package of extra funding to support public transport when the schools reopen but predictably the detailed guidelines on how this will work haven’t been published yet. But with only a few weeks to go decisions need to be taken now and the guidelines are likely to be too late to help.

Clearly the council itself isn’t immune from this problem and waiting for government guidelines has been a constant theme of the pandemic. We are still waiting for the details of the government proposals to underwrite income lost by councils because of the lockdown and in particular whether that includes losses at the leisure venues run for the council by the Cheltenham Trust. The latest rumour is that they will be out next week but then we’ve heard that before!

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