Challenge 1: Surrey

On a misty February morning, ten local government officers gathered in Kingston for the first LG Challenge of 2020 at Surrey County Council.


The ten contestants were welcomed by Claire Holloway (LG Challenge Head Judge and Head of Corporate Services at the LGA) to Surrey County Council – the location of which had been kept secret until only 3 weeks before. Contestants were briefed on what was to come over the next six months and split into two teams ready to learn what they would be tasked with on this first challenge. Katie Sargent (Surrey CC Environment Commissioning Group Manager) introduced the task: “How can the county council help to mitigate the effects of climate change linked to land use (Team A) and consumer habits (Team B), as part of its work to ensure Surrey is carbon neutral by 2050?”. LG Challenge 2020 had officially begun!

Kent County Council’s Zoe Galvin stepped up to captain Team Resilience and Calderdale Council’s Joe Kinsella for Team Trailblazers. With Zoe hailing from the same council as the last LG Challenge winner and Joe being persuaded to apply by his chief executive, expectations were high.

One of the unique elements of the programme is the intensity of each challenge – after a quick team meeting to take a first look at the timetable for the next 24 hours and throw some ideas around, the contestants were whisked off. Through meetings with members and officers, the contestants learnt how the council is recognising the concerns residents have about climate change and the ambition through the council’s Community Vision for Surrey that ‘Residents live in clean, safe and green communities, where people and organisations embrace their environmental responsibilities’. There were insightful discussions with experts from the fields of research, business and campaigning as well as site visits to eco businesses and a local farm. With a four-page proposal listing interventions linked to land use (Team Resilience) and consumer habits (Team Trailblazers) to aid the county becoming carbon neutral by 2050, a 12-month plan setting out the activity required to deliver and enable those interventions, plus a ten-minute presentation, there was a lot to get done by the day two 12.45pm deadline.

Both teams worked tirelessly and late into the night to deliver their proposals on time, and after two high-quality presentations, it was over to the judging panel of Claire Holloway, Joanna Killian (Surrey CC Chief Executive), Cllr Colin Kemp (Surrey CC Deputy Leader) and Katie Sargent to decide the winning team.

After careful deliberation, the judges declared Team Trailblazers the winners of the first 2020 challenge. Both presentations had impressed, but the strong pitch and more cohesive nature of Team Trailblazer’s approach made all the difference.