City council leader John Alexander is describing the task facing Dundee to recover from the coronavirus crisis as the “toughest challenge of our lifetimes”.
With signs of renewed activity emerging, Councillor Alexander is outlining a range of approaches that could be taken to support people and businesses into the post-lockdown future.
But he is warning that, like the rest of the world, potential job losses and fears of an ongoing economic downturn will make it hard to restore the city’s fortunes quickly.
Councillor Alexander explained: “The local authority is in a difficult position because we have been spending tens of millions of pounds in efforts to deal with the consequences of the virus.
“There are also a number of uncertainties around funding that are yet to be clarified which do not make our job any easier.
“Although we cannot hope to return to the ways things were, I am absolutely determined that our strong partnerships can rebuild the city for the better.
“Fairness and equality should be at the heart of everything that we do. We need to make the most of new opportunities to do things differently and more sustainably.
“Our council workforce has shown amazing resilience on the frontline in difficult circumstances, while staff who have worked from home have pioneered new digital delivery methods that will help shape services for the future.
“Life will be very different for everyone as restrictions are lifted, activities resume and the implications of Test and Protect become more apparent. These are all factors that we have to take into consideration as we move on.
“This means that we will not have a ‘light switch’ moment when services are all restored exactly as they were. We have to consider phasing, and some public buildings may not open immediately as we pass post-lockdown milestones.”
With the Dundee Partnership taking the lead on recovery, It is also likely that existing partnership strategies like the City Plan will be adapted to take account of the changing circumstances caused by coronavirus.
Any future plan would set out how action will be taken in the coming months and years with a focus on areas like construction, retail, tourism, leisure, culture and opportunities for young people. It would be based on the priorities of wellbeing, fairness, community cohesion and the environment.
While the city council has established a recovery sub-committee that will look to deal with urgent business over the summer, it is likely that a report updating councillors on progress could be considered by the full policy and resources committee in August
Councillor Alexander, who is also chair of the Dundee Partnership, added: “Dundee’s real strength lies in our city-wide partnerships and our desire that nobody gets left behind.
“To this end, we are considering how existing strategies like the City Plan can be reshaped to deal with this unprecedented situation.
“We are also fully committed to our longstanding ambitions to support business, fight poverty and to make sure that our children and vulnerable people remain safe.
“This has been an extremely difficult time, but we cannot forget our key aims to offer protection for those who most need it and to reduce drug deaths.
“I would ask everyone to continue the patience they have shown during lockdown, as we take on the toughest challenge of our lifetimes.”
Dundee Lord Provost Ian Borthwick said: “I am impressed by the way that Dundee people have shown responsibility and resilience during this extremely difficult time.
“Our city has pulled together and shown how we will go the extra mile to look after those in need.
“The recovery phase poses a number of challenges but I am optimistic that we can retain a spirit of togetherness to ensure that everyone gets through this.”
Dundee draws skilled workers from a 60-minute catchment population of 640,000 and has a local population of over 140,000. The availability of a large pool of highly skilled labour is a key feature in the Dundee economy. Flexibility in the labour force is currently more prevalent in Dundee than in Scotland as a whole. All forms of labour market flexibility - part-time, temporary employment, self-employment and shift work - are widely operational within the city. Labour force stability in the city is excellent, enabling companies to plan with confidence. Labour turnover levels are less than 5% and absenteeism averages 2%.