Re-Thinking Local: A Vision For The Future - Councillor James Jamieson

LGA Chairman Councillor James Jamieson delivers the opening to our webinar series.


Thank Mark, and thank you all for joining us.

And let me also add my thanks to CCLA for their continued support, it is greatly appreciated.

WoW, the world is a very different place to the one we met in when I spoke to you down in Bournemouth last year.

WoW – the World has changed since I opened last year’s conference in Bournemouth, A Global Pandemic, and the need for a fast Recovery, and a Virtual LGA Conference – Never has there been more of a need for Local Leadership

So welcome to, the first session of the first ‘virtual’ LGA Annual Conference. It is great that so many of you have been able to join us today for the start of what will be an interesting programme of webinars over the next two weeks.

The conversations we will have over the next two weeks will provide us with an opportunity to take stock on where we are, to hear from a range of speakers about the vital issues facing councils, and to discuss the next year and beyond.

Your input into this will be vital to set the LGA on the right path to represent you and the interests of local government throughout England.

And I am delighted to be able to continue as your Chairman for the coming year, as we continue to campaign for local government to be at the heart of decision making and be properly funded

I will continue to get out and about to meet as many of you as possible, hopefully soon in person again and to hear from you what the key issues and ideas.

Thank you

This year has obviously been a huge challenge for all of us and for our communities.

So I would like to start by saying Thank You, Thank You to all of you,

I am proud and delighted to see that across the whole country, local government has risen to this challenge, thanks to your hard work and the hard work of everyone who works for our councils.

Focusing on delivering for your communities. We have seen people really step up.

Switching to working from home virtually overnight, changing roles, building up new services overnight, and continuing to deliver our core services to residents.

And councillors taking a leading role within their communities. I would also like to say thank you to all those amazing volunteers who have stepped up to support our communities

You and your amazing colleagues have also shown that councils can be nimble and agile in a way that Whitehall cannot, in responding to this public health emergency.

And I would also like to thank my colleagues in the political group offices, who have all come together and ensured we spoke on your behalf with one voice.

And on a personal note I would like to say thank you to the LGA team, Mark and all his colleagues. Working in the heart of the LGA I have really noticed the difference they have been making.

So Thank You and I say again Thank You

A look back…

At the start of this year no one could have predicted a public health and global economic crisis, the likes of which we have not seen in over a century.

This pandemic has challenged us in ways that we could not possibly have imagined.

The COVID-19 outbreak has also fundamentally changed our communities

And Councils have stepped up

Bins / Roads / Vulnerable / Tidy Tips / Parks

Stepped up services – Shielding / Homeless / Business Grants & rates / PPE / 7 Days a week

Councils have been able to bring partners together to ensure those needs are met and that the challenges we have faced have been overcome.

All by you and your councils.

At a time when the funding gap continues to put pressure on councils’ abilities to deliver.

And that amazing work has been recognised by local residents, who now more than ever trust their councils to make the best decisions for their areas.

Our latest polling shows that:

  • 71 per cent of residents trust their councils (up 12 points since February);
  • 75 per cent are satisfied with the way their local councils run things in their areas (again, up 12 points since February);
  • And 87 per cent of residents are satisfied with their local area.

This pandemic has made all of us rethink our view of local and what it means to our residents.

Done in Days what takes years

Partners have changed their delivery

Recognition of importance of local delivery

Reputation enhanced

So what is the New Normal? Government prepares its English Devolution White Paper and a Spending Review…

...this is the time to make the case for a new settlement between national and local...

...and to level up the inequalities faced by our communities.

The challenges we face in the coming months include:

  • rebuilding our economy, sustainably and in a way that helps tackle climate change,
  • helping our health and social care services recover,
  • getting schools and youth services back up and running,
  • Adapt to the New Normal

All these issues require an effort at least as big as that made in dealing with the pandemic.

We have proved what we can do – We ask Government to Trust us to Deliver

We need the powers, flexibilities and resources to ensure locally driven recoveries, suited to every local communities

Which is just what the LGA is calling for in our Annual Conference paper, Re-thinking Local.

This paper will also be highlighting the work that councils of all shapes and sizes will be putting in as we emerge from this crisis.

It is the result of numerous conversations with people from across the local government sector.

These conversations will continue in the coming months as we adjust to the new normal.

We will be asking the Government to use the Spending Review to provide the right fiscal and policy framework to deliver a long-term transformation of the economy.

That facilitate locally-led, sustainable recoveries, enabling councils to invest in green housing, jobs, infrastructure and other environmental measures for the long term.

Councils have the local knowledge and expertise and the ability to convene locally to deliver the impact and outcomes needed to get the economy back on its feet.

The Government should commit to support our ‘Work Local’ programme, so each council can develop the skills and employment provision it needs to thrive.

The benefits of this integrated approach could be vast, with a medium sized combined authority seeing additional local fiscal benefits of £280 million per year.

For too long the issues of Adult Social Care have been metaphorically kicked down the road, we at the local and national level want to work cross party with Government to find a long-term solution. And this is not just about money, it is about proper locally led integration with health and the wider determinants of health such as housing and community.

The NHS, its partners, councils and health and wellbeing boards should be empowered to collaborate on commissioning and planning, ensuring place-based plans and neighbourhood delivery are enshrined in health, social care and public health.

And Government, through its work with council leaders, must ensure the consequences of COVID-19 do not impact more on some groups, communities and places than others, thus widening all forms of inequalities.

For our society’s most vulnerable who need further support, Government and councils must work together, and with all partners to design an integrated, holistic offer to protect them from the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For children and young people, Government investment in the practical, emotional, education and mental health support they need must be forthcoming to prevent future issues developing. Again, more local involvement will deliver better results

This, allied with councils building on the effective partnerships established with schools during this pandemic, can provide the right support for all children, young people and families.

The future

By enacting these policies, national government will enable councils to take the lead in rebuilding and levelling up our communities whilst also tackling long standing inequalities in society.

The LGA and local councils have always argued this should be the case, and the events of the past six months, and local leaders’ response to the challenges, have provided us with more evidence in our favour.

The COVID-19 pandemic represents an opportunity for our nation, for local communities to lead a national recovery.

The lessons of the past are there to be learned, that local can deliver better, faster, and more efficiently than Whitehall,

Despite facing significant funding uncertainty, we have created new services, pulled partners together and instinctively protected the most vulnerable.

In short, councils have delivered for their communities.

Now with the right tools and resources, councils will be able to deliver on their local communities’ ambitions.

Our paper, Re-thinking Local, starts the debate on the future shape of local government.

It provides examples of how various councils are already taking the first steps in implementing plans to ensure the future is bright.

And it offers ways in which local government can work alongside national government, demonstrating that we are equal partners in our desire to do what is best for our communities.

We are calling on the Government to listen, to acknowledge the evidence of the past six months, and to engage with local leaders on the question of how we build services for the future.

Councils have demonstrated a wealth of innovative and creative thinking during this crisis, and Government should know that we are not out of ideas yet!

Re-thinking Local is merely the beginning of a much broader dialogue that we will be seeking to engage in over the coming months.

I and all my colleagues at the LGA will working extremely hard to amplify your voices, the voices of your communities, and putting forward the solutions you are championing every day to the issues facing our country.

I would personally like to invite you all to download a copy of our conference paper, to read it and to get in touch with us here at the LGA as we engage the Government in our conversation as we Re-think Local.

Thank you again for all your hard work, which has saved lives, held communities together, kept businesses afloat and shown everyone what local government can really do.

Thank you.

I will now hand back to Mark, who will introduce the next session.