Re-Thinking Local: A Vision For The Future - Councillor Marianne Overton OBE

Leader of the Independent Group Councillor Marianne Overton OBE delivers her opening address to the LGA's webinar series.

Good Morning! I am pleased to talk to you about our recovery,  social, economic and environmental, and the role of our Councils. 

The last few months we Councillors and staff have found ways to do what was thought impossible. When needs must, Councils Can. The wartime footing we have found ourselves on has required us all to step up, and step up we have. 

Councillors and officers have shown incredible local leadership through very challenging circumstances. 

Thank you for everything you have done. Our metal has been tested and found to shine.

As Leaders of Place, our members have worked across many local agencies; with our residents, the NHS, voluntary sector and other partners - to ensure our vulnerable and shielded are supported; to deliver business grants and help the economy; to still keep essential services running; and together we are now looking towards the delivery of an improved and more sustainable future.

I have been inspired by the vision, commitment and resilience I’ve seen, whether members are leading councils or in opposition. In this unequal world, our work has allowed others to survive and even thrive.

As we focus on recovery – it is essential that we don’t go backwards. It is not a time to centralise services such as planning, nor side-line local democracy. Nor force re-organisation. It’s a time to devolve to our democratic local authorities, as they are.

Councils have proven themselves reliable and effective partners, trusted leaders of place, capable connectors to bring many agencies in both strategic direction and wrap-around solutions for individuals. Give us the tools, powers and financial security and we will do more.

We need to harness the positives that have arisen and change those things that aren’t working in a way that support our social, environmental and economic recovery.

Turning to our social recovery – community action has been incredibly inspiring and we need to harness this commitment to our neighbours, in the way we develop and deliver services going forward. Nd there are tough calls to resolve in unemployment, domestic violence and child protection-tough calls that need local leadership across agencies by local government.

We’ve also seen how covid-19 has disproportionately impacted certain communities and the healing we now need to support in terms of mental health, public health, to those who’ve experienced domestic abuse and vulnerable children. 

Economic recovery is clearly vital but let’s look to do this in a way that supports local business, our environmental commitments and sustainability, and utilises digital innovation, rather than simply going back to a GDP driven system.

Equally as important is the opportunity to use this as a turning point for our greener ambitions. 

Maybe some of the biggest benefits of the last few months have been environmental – so let’s look to green jobs, modern means of construction, revitalised public transport, digital innovation which doesn’t need so much travel or the buildings that contribute to 35% of our carbon footprint. 

We now have to renew our commitment to actions that bring us to a carbon net zero as soon as possible. 

Councils must be at the centre of this next phase – we are democratically elected; we understand our residents; we put our local communities first; and as the last few months have shown, we have the expertise, resilience, trust and commitment needed to lead us into a new future. 

So thank you again for your efforts to date and the work we’ll all be undertaking going forward. 

As we attend this year’s conference events, let’s discuss and share ways of continuing our growth in a way that delivers for all in a better way, driven by local government.