A life beyond the Coronavirus
In the midst of these unprecedented and difficult times, it isn’t easy to see beyond the end of the week, let alone the end of the crisis.
Words written and policies formed only yesterday are out of date the following morning.
Lives will be upended for so many of us; loved ones will pass away, many will lose their livelihoods, children will miss vital education and the economy will likely enter a deep recession. This is not a trivial, temporary change, COVID-19 will have a generational impact that will be felt for many, many years, decades even, to come as the country labours under incredible levels of debt.
COVID-19 is changing our physical boundaries, changing our relationship with families and friends and making people and Governments across the world rethink their role in society to rethink what they value.
In many discussions I have had, people talk of when life returns to ‘normal’. For starters, I think it will be difficult to return to what we once considered normal once the scale of the impacts become clear.
I suggest that what we eventually settle into may become the ‘new normal’, but therein lies hope for us all.
Newness, renewal and the opportunity to consider what we would like that New Normal to actually be could, in itself, be the biggest positive to emerge from these troubling times.
One thing that has been increasingly apparent to me over the last ten years at Public Sector Plc and working with our Council partners across the length and breadth of the country is that the one of the great failures of our society, alongside failure to act meaningfully on climate change, is the increasingly stark level of social inequality evident wherever you look.
To me, Brexit was as much an expression of powerlessness and disenfranchisement as it was a commentary on our relationship with Brussels. It was a cry from those feeling left behind and let down by governing structures that feel remote and disconnected from their daily lives.
If, when we find the New Normal, it leaves half of our country even further behind, it will be a devastating failure of society. Regardless of your politics, it is inconceivable that government, in all its forms; national, regional and local, won’t have a huge role to play in pulling the country towards a better future, providing the stimulus needed to move the economy forward.
Indeed, we will all have our part to play, individually and corporately. I would like to think that the future we would all wish for ourselves and others is kinder, more equitable and significantly more focused on wellbeing. The wellbeing of our families, our communities and our planet.
The questions we must ask ourselves, and can be planning for even now, are those that have the potential to shape life for a generation to come. There won’t be enough money to go around and there will be painful choices to be made in how best to rebuild shattered lives and a shattered economy.
I’m not a social scientist, economist or politician and don’t claim divine wisdom or to have any greater insight than anyone else. However, as someone who has been involved in property and place-making for his entire career, I am acutely aware of the role that places, communities and our homes have in shaping lives, for better or for worse.
I believe that the moves made by the Chancellor in his budget just as Coronavirus was taking hold were right for the country then and will be even more needed once we emerge into the beginnings of our New Normal.
Building new and stronger communities must be at the heart of the New Normal.
Better homes that tackle fuel poverty and are more resilient to climate change because they are zero carbon are one of the huge steps we need to take to stimulate the economy post COVID-19 impact and help in addressing social inequality.
Creating better homes and better communities across Britain will help to level-up Britain and more importantly create better lives for all of us.
It isn’t the silver bullet, there isn’t one, but it will be a start. It can be a first step on a long journey to deliver positive and lasting change that benefits everyone.
Let’s agree to harness our collective experience of the devastating effects of COVID-19 to work together to build a better country and leave no one behind on this journey.