Debate, not hate

The great national challenges of our day – living with coronavirus, building back the economy, ensuring high-quality care, and protecting the environment for future generations – all have one thing in common. 

They can only be tackled through local leadership and local innovation, as demonstrated in our annual conference report and new campaign, ‘Build back local’ ( 

But we also need to do all of this in a civil and civilised way, by working constructively and respectfully across party lines and with our communities. 

Robust and lively debate in our councils and with our residents is a crucial part of the democratic process. Differences of opinion and the defence of those opinions through councillors’ arguments and public debate are an essential part of the cut and thrust of political life. 

Doing these things in a respectful way helps us build and maintain healthy working relationships with fellow councillors, officers, and members of the public, and encourages others to treat us with respect.

But, too often, complicated arguments are reduced to short soundbites in the media, or accusations made without any thought given to their substance. 

Civility in public life is not only a moral issue, it is also the only way we will collectively work together to deliver on the immense challenges that face us. 

I have heard harrowing stories from councillors and officers about the harassment and intimidation they have faced. It is unacceptable; it damages our democracy by forcing people from public service, and it must be stopped.  

We all have a duty to stop this, and as councillors we need to be conscious of our own comments that can be seen as a green light for others.

For our part, the LGA will be taking forward a significant programme of work to help improve civility in public life

As a society, we cannot ‘build back local’ without first making sure we value all those who come forward to serve locally.


Time to go faster on hitting net zero

Aviation advice and why councils need it