THE efforts of us all to suppress the coronavirus continue to pay off. From shielding to the simple act of putting on a mask to go shopping, we have together managed to dramatically reduce the spread of the virus. We’ve waited a long time and now have the chance to savour a trip to a favourite cafe, bar, the hairdresser or to visit friends and loved ones,

The task of helping our economy and communities to recover and renew from the impact of this trauma is now well under ay and will be the focus of activity across national and local government for probably years to come. Despite the rhetoric from some quarters at the start of this crisis, we were never all in this together. The Covid-19 pandemic really has laid bare the inequalities that already existed within society. Poverty and disadvantage have been exacerbated within Glasgow and, indeed, throughout the UK. Few of us will emerge from this experience unscathed,but for some the impact will be both deeper and longer lasting.

It is increasingly clear that many more in our city will experience a loss of income and have to live with the pressure of financial uncertainty. Efforts must continue to contain the disease – which is still present in our communities – but we also have to recognise that the stress, anxiety, loneliness and fear that many experienced during lockdown will not necessarily come to an end because the shops have reopened. We’re yet to see the full impact of the past three-and-a-half months on mental health, domestic abuse and gender-based violence, and on addiction. These are the issues that will be at the front of politicians’ minds for some considerable time.

But, of course, even as we came into this pandemic, we were already living with the challenges caused by a decade of austerity. In my three years as city leader, I’ve written to a succession of UK ministers alerting them to the very real impact of their damaging welfare policies on Glasgow’s most vulnerable citizens. (I’ve only rarely had the courtesy of a reply.) Despite the efforts of the Glasgow City Government and our colleagues in the Scottish Government to mitigate the worst excesses of UK policy with the limited powers available to us, this city has been robbed of tens of millions pounds in household incomes and witnessed a surge in the use of food banks and crisis poverty, fuelled by cruel policies like benefit sanctions and the two-child Universal Credit cap.

The pandemic has been an unpreceden-ted crisis requiring

the unprecedented response we have seen from both governments. It’s vital that we have the resources and levers at a city level to make sure this delivers properly for citizens. But that can’t and doesn’t hold Glasgow back from calling on our experience, expertise and willingness to get the rebuilding process under way.

The Glasgow Economic Recovery Group has already been hard at work developing a plan to not only get the city economy back on its feet but also to do so in a way that is fairer, greener and more inclusive. But the economy doesn’t exist in a vacuum: it’s there to serve the needs of citizens and communities and they require an equal focus and determination to help them recover. So the City Council and our partners have also formed a Social Recovery Taskforce, mobilising relationships with the NHS, third sector, police, housing providers, advocacy groups and community representatives.

It’s these relationships and our experiences of working together that give a great foundation for the Taskforce to build on. It will provide the leadership and direction for what will be a complex and wide-ranging task and take responsibility for identifying emerging impacts of the pandemic on our society and ensuring they’re addressed. And every step of the way, it will make sure that the inequalities facing many of our citizens and communities are front and centre of the recovery agenda.

The Taskforce will soon be ready to set out its shared vision. Issues raised in its initial discussions have included the impact of the virus on young people leaving schools or colleges; a sudden rise in unemployment and benefits being claimed as businesses fail to re-emerge and furlough payments come to an end; the ability of the third sector to cope with growing demand; how digital inclusion is increasingly pivotal in addressing social and economic inequalities; and the role of schools and childcare. It will also focus on how the long-term effects of the pandemic and lockdown are felt by older people, BAME and LGBT+ communities, on disabled people and on carers.

And I really want to see how the Taskforce can nurture the community action that has come to the fore and flourished during this crisis – to better connect communities, foster cohesion and sustain that surge in volunteerism, which has been one of the most heartening things to witness in the past few months.

I said at the outset of this crisis that simply recovering from the pandemic and its fallouts wasn’t enough. We have to grasp the opportunity to change, renew and improve society. Here in Glasgow and beyond, communities have empowered themselves to take ownership of their challenges and respond collectively. That’s the key to creating the resilient and sustainable neighbourhoods that will not only much better equip our city to handle whatever future crises emerge, but also to finally turn around the inequalities that have placed limits on the life chances of too many of our citizens for far too long.

If we can build that legacy for Glasgow, then we will truly have salvaged something positive from the tragedy of this pandemic.