As we begin to look forward and rebuild, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not just recover but to go even further.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the communities in which we live and work. The next six months have the potential to shape the direction of this country for years to come.
The challenges ahead are as great as those we faced during the pandemic. We need to rebuild our economy, get people back to work and create a new hope in our communities.
As we begin to look forward and rebuild, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to not just recover but to go even further – to address the stark inequalities the pandemic has exposed and that have remained entrenched for too long; to connect with people’s identities and sense of community; to capture the energy and dynamism which have been the hallmarks of our response to this crisis; to rebuild the economy so that it benefits everyone.
We need to capture this moment and use it as a catalyst for a new way of working - a reset. To respond to the significant economic challenges ahead we need a new joint endeavour between local and national government. For too long, successive Governments have worked from Whitehall, in silos and largely out of touch with local communities. With the upcoming English Devolution White Paper and this year’s Spending Review, the Government has a unique opportunity to reset our communities’ relationship with their Government and, in doing so, level up the inequalities faced by our communities.
To achieve this, local leaders must be able to bring government departments and agencies together to deliver locally determined and accountable outcomes that go beyond the institutional boundaries of most of our local and national agencies. And they must switch focus from process and bidding for grants to one of outcomes and rewards for achieving them. Communities need the Devolution White Paper to offer the broadest vision possible. One which addresses the biggest public service issues such as social care, health and skills and employment. The vision must be bold and invite devolution deals which are shaped by the needs of local areas and help to level up inequalities between our communities and our regions.
71% per cent of residents trust their council - an increase of 12 per cent since February 2020
These new powers must be backed by a financial settlement that takes full account of the local costs of recovery and recognises the benefits of investment directed by those closest to the opportunities for shared prosperity. The Spending Review will need to move away from the traditional drivers of departmental spending towards a degree of fiscal decentralisation in line with some of the world’s most productive economies. The economic challenges our communities are facing require a bold response - place based budgets which are in tune with the needs of the local economy. We need to re-think how we fund public services – not try to fit new and bold ideas into old frameworks.
During this crisis local government has proven what we can do for and with our communities when we are called upon. We have shown that we know our residents, our businesses and our partners best and that we’re trusted to work on their behalf. Rather than ask why local, any centralised approach should have to explain why not local?
We need to capture this moment and use it as a catalyst for a new way of working - a reset.
Council leaders and the councils they represent stand shoulder to shoulder with their local communities, rallying residents and protecting businesses. Hard working front-line staff have continued to deliver essential public services and developed new services and approaches at pace and under pressure, leading rather than waiting to be led by national Government.
Councils have never been more trusted by their residents to make decisions for them locally: Polling conducted during June 2020 shows that 71 per cent of residents trust their council (an increase of 12 per cent since February 2020) and that the vast majority (75 per cent, an increase of 12 per cent since February 2020) are satisfied with the way their local council runs things in their area. Government should embrace the opportunity this local trust presents.
The trust placed in councils by their communities has been matched by innovation, resilience and bold leadership throughout the pandemic. Over the past few months councils have brought together local partners and built on the strength already present in our communities.
We’re facing a new world where the social and economic challenges posed over the last decade have taken on even more prominence. Inequalities endured by many have been starkly exposed. There are calls from across the country for a renewed focus on environmental, economic and social sustainability. Only councils understand the unique challenges of their areas – and understand too the limitations of a recovery led from the centre.
We need a clear focus on the future of the country, on the quality of life that we offer our residents and on the role councils, as leaders of place. The debate on governance must be led by what can be delivered.
People have looked to us for leadership and we have proven that we can deliver the change our residents want.
This document sets out a series of offers to Government, alongside a set of asks and is the start of a process. A process to rethink our approach to these problems and a process that leads central Government to rethink its view of us. We collectively need to rethink local and we hope this is the first step.
Now is the time for national government to grasp these opportunities and to lay the foundations for a future that is local.
- Cllr James Jamieson – LGA Chairman
- Cllr Nick Forbes CBE – Labour Group Leader and LGA Senior Vice-Chair
- Cllr Izzi Seccombe OBE – Conservative Group Leader and LGA Vice-Chairman
- Cllr Howard Sykes MBE – Liberal Democrat Group Leader and LGA Vice-Chair
- Cllr Marianne Overton MBE – Independent Group Leader and LGA Vice-Chair