Partners in supporting our communities

The annual conference of the District Councils’ Network took place in mid-March, little more than a fortnight before most of our member councils celebrated their 50th anniversary. 

However, it was not an event at which we basked in the glories of the past half-century. 

Our conference theme was looking ahead to 2030 and beyond – facing up to the challenges of the coming years and examining the opportunities they will bring.

Like the rest of local government and indeed society, district councils operate in a difficult age. 

Demand is rising and our resources are more severely constrained than ever before. 

The increases in homelessness and in migration have placed further demands on our already stretched housing services – we want to ensure there are affordable homes for everyone, not unsatisfactory temporary accommodation. 

The recent rise in the cost of living means more of our residents seek support and our expertise is valued because we have a track record of taking action when people need it most. 

“We all know challenges and solutions extend beyond lines on local government maps”

It’s a similar story on economic support, where we are on the frontline of protecting our much-loved high streets, which are so ravaged by changes in shopping habits.

But change is more fundamental than even the immense increase in councils’ workload. 

Our conference heard how climate change is becoming ever more real. We have much more to do to reduce the emissions of councils and, in particular, our communities, as well as shaping our places to withstand intensifying temperature and rainfall extremes. 

We also had a session dedicated to artificial intelligence, the eventual impact of which we cannot comprehend, but for which we must nevertheless prepare.

District councils are not alone in facing ever-greater challenges or seeking certainty in an increasingly uncertain world. 

We want to work alongside you, the rest of local government, and indeed the rest of the public sector, business and society, in navigating a path through this complexity for the benefit of our communities. 

My message to our partner councils is one of cooperation. 

Districts are the closest principal authorities to our communities. We have a unique ability to reach individual people or businesses needing help. 

By intervening early there is scope to reduce the burden on our county council colleagues – and the same is true of our NHS partners. 

Similarly, district councils have a long-standing expertise on economic development and regeneration which we will use alongside and in support of counties.

Together we are stronger. 

District councils’ small scale and closeness to our communities is the perfect complement to the benefits that larger scale offers county and unitary councils over some services. 

We all know that challenges and solutions extend beyond lines on local government maps.

As we contemplate how best to lay the foundations for the next 50 years, no-one can be sure what a council will look like in 2074. And we certainly cannot be sure about what type of world in which they will be operating. 

But I am confident that being close to our communities will continue to bring results, as will partnership. I look forward to working with you – our partners in local government and beyond – as we contemplate the huge task ahead of us.

To find out more about the work of the District Councils’ Network, please visit

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