Risk management is key for the public sector to safely emerge from the pandemic in 2021
2020 was a year of significant change, for all of us including those of the public sector.
As those responsible for managing risk across the sector look ahead to 2021, there are many challenges to be faced. Perhaps a good place to start will be to review the insurance cover the public sector already has in place and ensure that the events of 2020 have not seen cover curtailed or reduced. And to assess new risks coming onto the horizon which may not be insured or subject to the risk management disciplines of other key activities within the organisation.
A thorough assessment of the risks that local authorities and blue light services face as we move forward is a vital first step in managing the changes to the way we work and live ushered in by COVID-19.
For example, there are new emerging risks to manage in the workplace. The majority of premises are back up and running, but we’re still yet to see civic centres and Police and Fire headquarters fully staffed. The same applies to universities. To get everyone back into work, local leaders will have to adjust surroundings and processes to meet the new expectations of a workforce and its building users, coming out of a pandemic.
We’ve also seen an increase in cyber-attacks since March 2020, which means funnelling fresh investment into installing robust firewalls and up-to-date anti-virus software.
But even if the right systems and protocols are in place, the question still remains whether people want to return to the office at all? Many people are settled into their homeworking routine and might prefer to make it a permanent solution.
Having tasted the best of both worlds, many workers at the very least expect a flexible work schedule and homeworking looks here to stay. This is the moment that risk managers should look at the duty of care they have to staff and to risk assess home office environments and make sure workers have everything they need to do their work safely.
Our changing work patterns are also having a profound effect on the shape and population of our town centres. With more businesses vacating their offices, city centre consumer businesses aren’t experiencing the same footfall they once enjoyed. Large shopping centres are also struggling more than ever to attract the business they need to stay afloat. This process will only exacerbate the desire of employees to work from home rather than commute to a ghost town.
The number of deserted commercial buildings keeps growing, and local authorities will need to reimagine how these buildings can be redeveloped to meet the changing demands of the community.
If there is a move away from full-time city working, we could see fresh opportunities open up for local high streets. Once the country spends less time in lockdown, local businesses could start to benefit more regularly from the growing number of people working in their towns. We’re also seeing more local authorities take on failing shopping precincts, and if managed well, they could prove to be sound investments. This would also play to the green agenda, with more locally sourced products, especially food, reducing the carbon footprint that globalised foot manufacturing can leave behind.
And while their towns transform around them, there is an emerging view that local government could be better served by a more flexible single structure. The latest example of this is with Northamptonshire Council and the Northamptonshire Borough’s which has now merged to form Northamptonshire East and Northamptonshire West. As the government seeks greater economies of scale, we could see more councils follow in their footsteps. While these mergers may prove to be successful, history shows that risk managing the transition could become a key issue over the next 12 months and beyond.
There is little doubt that financial constraints, the changing face of local shopping and home working will be key challenges throughout 2021 and as we emerge through the pandemic. Across the public sector assessing and managing these risks will be vital.
For help and support on risk management topics facing the public sector, please visit our website www.rmpartners.co.uk.
Published date: 28th January 2021
This note is not intended to give legal or financial advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon for such. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and or market practice in this area. In preparing this note we have relied on information sourced from third parties and we make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein. It reflects our understanding as at 25th January 2021, but you will recognise that matters concerning COVID-19 are fast changing across the world. You should not act upon information in this bulletin nor determine not to act, without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Our advice to our clients is as an insurance broker and is provided subject to specific terms and conditions, the terms of which take precedence over any representations in this document. No third party to whom this is passed can rely on it. We and our officers, employees or agents shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever arising from the recipient’s reliance upon any information we provide herein and exclude liability for the content to fullest extent permitted by law. Should you require advice about your specific insurance arrangements or specific claim circumstances, please get in touch with your usual contact at Risk Management Partners.