“I’ve never felt as close to my community” – Pembrokeshire, the pandemic & me

January 27, 2021  

To go alongside our Shifting the Balance research, Neil Prior, Cabinet Member for Transformation at Pembrokeshire County Council reflects on the transformation that the Covid-19 pandemic fuelled in his council – particularly in forging a closer relationship between public officials and their local community.

TRANSCRIPT: My name’s Neil Prior, I’m a county councillor in Pembrokeshire in West Wales, and like everybody else across the UK I’ve seen a remarkable community response to the pandemic.

I guess I feel privileged in many respects that I might have seen that closer up than many, as a result of my role. I’ve never felt so close to my community as I have during the past year.

That might sound like a strange thing to say from an elected representative but it’s true, because I’ve made sure that I’ve taken an active role in supporting my community. I’ve realised that there are so many people out there who are natural community leaders, who do good things who look out for one another. They would do that without a county councillor and without a county council so it’s really important that we recognise our role as public sector officials is to make sure that we are just supporting and doing the right thing: signposting and offering specialist help where we need to but doing with, not to – it’s definitely been about not treading on people’s toes.

The other part that I found really interesting has been the organisation’s response – councils can be slightly detached, they can be slightly aloof but what we’ve really seen is an incredible focus on purpose – on why we exist, having a very clear mandate and responsibility to support, inform and connect with our communities to make sure that we are all doing the right things to preserve life during the pandemic. And I’ve seen that as well through our public sector partners – much closer partnership working.

This is why I think the ‘Shifting the Balance’ work is really important and timely it’s going to give us so many lessons and thoughts to take forward into the future and it has to be about that community power – shifting the balance so that we work far more effectively with our communities for the benefit of all.

Shifting the Balance: Local adaptation, innovation and collaboration during the pandemic and beyond was published on 27 January 2021. It explores how councils and communities responded to the Covid-19 pandemic and what this can teach us for the future.

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