Districts are delivering the difference

The event, held in Kenilworth, heard how more than 10,000 district councillors from across the country are offering local solutions to national problems for those we serve – one family, one street and one place at a time.

The impact of district councils is gaining increasing recognition, not least from an impressive conference line-up of big-name politicians, local government leaders and key influencers, who recognised the integral role districts have in addressing the major challenges of house building, public health and adult social care, and the environment.

Indeed, this was highlighted by podium speaker Communities Secretary James Brokenshire MP, who said: “No-one is better placed to support a bright, positive future than district councils… District councils will be key to us delivering 300,000 homes a year, not just more homes, but better lives and stronger economies.”

The Minister is right. As the housing and planning authorities, districts are delivering the lion’s share of new homes, with almost 100,000 built last year and planning consents given even faster and in greater numbers than before.

There’s also the £675 million High Streets Fund, which in district/county areas, is only available to districts. To incentivise bids, Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak told delegates that districts “are best placed to bid for the fund and deliver these proposals” to spearhead the transformation of our high streets for a new generation.

“Amid uncertainty around Brexit, the importance of district councils, making that difference to people’s lives – day in, day out – has never been more important”

We also mustn’t forget the landmark lifting of the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap, to help councils manage housing markets better.

In a changing world and amid uncertainty around Brexit, the importance of district councils, making that difference to people’s lives – day in, day out – has never been more important.

This was highlighted in our conference report, ‘Shaping healthy places: exploring the district role in health’, published in collaboration with the LGA. It details innovative prevention initiatives by district councils to keep people fit and well and out of hospital, saving money for the public purse. Housing and health are linked, and we are the best people to deliver it.

By being able to operate at a size and scale that people understand and can relate to, districts are problem solvers rather than problem raisers. But district councils can do more with a fairer distribution of funding.

Of all councils types, districts have seen the biggest reduction in their spending power since 2015 and it’s now time that this is addressed. We need more funding and we need to reset the relationship between local government and the state.

The Spending Review needs to ensure that powerful incentives to build new homes are retained and that £500 million of the New Homes Bonus already earned by districts is paid as promised.

Communities Secretary James Brokenshire told delegates he will recommend housing growth is incentivised in the Spending Review, while Treasury Minister Liz Truss spoke of the need to reward local areas for new homes being built and “to give more freedom to local councils.”

These are encouraging assurances on vital issues which we will continue to lobby on to ensure Districts are empowered to deliver the difference to improve people’s lives.

For more information about the District Councils’ Network, please visit https://districtcouncils.info/.

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