Localism has come of age

The COVID-19 crisis has reshaped how we think about our lives. 

Councils’ unrivalled intimate knowledge of communities, along with their innovation, responsiveness and resilience, have been instrumental in guiding us through the most challenging period most of us will have ever known. 

Our dedicated council workforce continues to adjust, respond and innovate to protect residents, and to deliver their vital bread-and-butter functions – including education and care – in new ways.

The pandemic has revealed to many what leaders, councillors and officers have always known: the potent power of ‘local’ in finding solutions to suit distinct needs. 

At the time of writing, all eyes are on the UK Spending Review. In Wales, we hope that the Chancellor takes the chance to deliver on his vow to level up the UK by showing a commitment to invest in Wales as we seek to recover from the impact of the crisis and beyond. 

As we approach the next Welsh Parliament elections in May, it is vitally important that councils continue to be valued as integral and equal partners in delivering services for every community in the country. 

As council leaders, we have warmly welcomed the constructive way in which the Welsh Government, particularly the Minister for Housing and Local Government, has consistently sought to engage with us in close, ongoing dialogue. So much so, in fact, that I – as Leader of the WLGA – regularly attend the Cabinet’s COVID-19 Core Group meetings to update ministers on local government’s work on the ground.

The central-local relationship, along with the outstanding work of our partners in health and the third sector, has helped to redefine the possible. Together, when local authorities are given the necessary funding, freedom and flexibility, we can achieve even more for our residents.

Local government has always been clear about its ambition for communities and its role in delivering central government’s agenda. 

“The pandemic has revealed…the potent power of ‘local’ in finding solutions to suit distinct needs

From building houses and supporting the vulnerable, elderly and families, to educating the next generation to create a skilled workforce and support local economies, councils are key to progress on national priorities.

‘Prevention is better than cure’ has long been the mantra of local government. Early interventions and the wide range of preventative services delivered by councils help to improve residents’ and communities’ health and wellbeing, as well as taking pressure off our hospitals and frontline services. 

A commitment to long-term sustainable investment in services such as social care, public transport, housing, community safety, environmental health and public protection will have to be a cornerstone for the next Welsh government’s agenda.

Local economies have been hit hard by the impact of the crisis, and councils are eager to support sustainable inclusive growth and a green recovery. Local government has already worked with the Welsh Government to come up with a plethora of ‘shovel ready’ projects to help local communities. We will look forward to progressing this work further.

If we are to protect and support the most vulnerable, tackle inequalities within and across Wales’ communities, and stimulate the hard-hit economy, we must capitalise on transformed relationships with central government and partners. 

We shouldn’t shy away from waxing lyrical about the enormous contribution of our dedicated workforce – and we should be unapologetic in wanting the very best for our communities.

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