In December 2022, the UK Government Resilience Framework (UKGRF/framework) was published, following a consultation. The framework is intended to bolster our national resilience.
In December 2022, the UK Government Resilience Framework (UKGRF) was published, following a consultation which the LGA responded to. The framework is based upon three core principles:
A shared understanding of the risks we face is essential: it must underpin everything that we do to prepare for and recover from crises.
Prevention rather than cure wherever possible: resilience-building spans the whole risk cycle so we must focus effort across the cycle, particularly before crises happen.
Resilience is a ‘whole of society’ endeavour: so we must be more transparent and empower everyone to make a contribution.
Of the six themes in the framework (risk; responsibility and accountability; partnership; community; investment, and skills), the responsibility and accountability section, which includes a series of proposals on strengthening Local Resilience Forums (LRFs), will be of particular interest to councils. Councils are already core members of their local resilience forums, and the framework’s proposals to strengthen LRFs and focus more on preventative activity are likely to enhance the role of councils and councillors in this space.
The UKGRF sets out three pillars to significantly strengthen LRFs, focusing on leadership accountability and integration.
The framework proposes to pilot a permanent chief resilience officer role (CRO) for each LRF area, replacing the current model of part time LRF chairs drawn from individual LRF members such as the police/fire services or councils.
The CRO would be supported with the resources and mandate to bring partners together to drive and enhance resilience. They would be accountable to executive local democratic leaders, giving leaders a clear role in ensuring effective delivery of resilience activity.
To strength accountability and assurance across LRFs, the framework sets out an ambition that clear mechanisms and expectations between the CRO and executive local leaders will make LRFs more accountable and provide mechanisms for local communities to hold local leaders to account for driving resilience. The Government will consider the means for stronger assurance of LRFs’ collective delivery, including auditable frameworks and building assessment of resilience into the inspection and audit regimes of individual responders.
The Government wants to integrate resilience into levelling up and place making to build a solid foundation for resilient communities, with the CRO and local elected leaders empowered to work across the full range of local policy making and delivery to build resilience into wider policy making.
To support this, the Government intends for resilience to be included as a key aspect of devolution deals (the recent Greater Manchester Combined Authority Trailblazer deeper devolution deal is the first example of this) and will consider making the case for combined authorities and mayoral combined authorities to become category one responders under the Civil Contingencies Act; where there are no devolution deals, it proposes to integrate resilience into wider delivery.
Stronger LRF pilots and implications for councils/councillors
The Government has committed to piloting different aspects of the stronger LRFs programme, ahead of any changes that would be required to the Civil Contingencies Act to implement it. It aims to undertake pilots by 2025 and to deliver the LRF reform programme by 2030. It is expected that funded pilots will begin at the end of 2023 following a process to select pilot areas earlier in the year. Details of the pilot process are available from [email protected]
In our response to the consultation on a new national resilience strategy, the LGA stated that:
...We would like to see the role of local elected representatives formally recognised within civil continencies structures. Councillors have vital roles to play in providing civic, community and political leadership throughout the emergency planning cycle and this should be reflected within legislation. In recognising the principle of local political engagement within the Act, however, there will need to be flexibility about how this is structured locally given diverse LRF footprints and differing local and mayoral/combined authority arrangements.
It is positive that the Government has responded to our ask on this and will be piloting mechanisms for giving elected leaders a clear role in civil contingencies. Moreover, with the framework’s ambition to take a more preventative approach and integrate resilience into other policy making, council and councillors’ wider place shaping roles will be vital to driving the ambition of the framework and thinking beyond a narrow approach to emergency preparedness, response and recovery alone.
As we set out in our response to the Government consultation, there will be a need for flexibility in the mechanisms enabling elected leaders to take on their leadership role in resilience, given different local government structures and LRF footprints across the country. The LGA therefore encourages councils and councillors to consider how the Government’s ambitions could work in their areas, through engaging with any pilots where they take place, or in other areas, considering this in discussions with local leaders.