Building back better

Throughout the pandemic, local government has demonstrated the value of local leadership and stepped up and delivered for our communities when it mattered. 

Councillors have provided local political leadership, supported by exceptional and dedicated council staff. You and they are among the true heroes of the pandemic.  

As we look towards the next phase in our national story, it needs to be about communities and places.

That is why, throughout the LGA’s new ‘Build back local’ campaign, we will be highlighting the role councils can play to lead the recovery from the pandemic – by driving improvements in public health, adult social care and children’s services; boosting local economic growth; reviving town and city centres, building more homes, and improving roads; and equipping people with the skills they need to succeed so that no-one is left behind. 

Launched at our annual conference in July, ‘Build back local’ demonstrates how national and local government can work together to level up communities and tackle inequalities. 

With the right tools, powers and long-term investment in our vital local services, councils can help rebuild their communities and address the challenges brought on by the pandemic.

Through this campaign and beyond, your LGA will continue to make the case for why your local leadership is so vital, and through our sector-led improvement programme we will also support you in innovating and delivering services. 

“Having a secure home and a good job is key to so much

There are some big milestones that we will be focusing on in the coming year. 

Adult social care needs long-term sustainable funding that will allow us to improve the lives of our most vulnerable. The Government’s Levelling Up White Paper needs to genuinely devolve power to councils and local communities.

Having a safe and secure home and the opportunity for a good job is key to so much, so it is vital that the Planning White Paper improves our current planning system. 

We will be making the case for infrastructure, economic growth and genuine local democratic input as the best way to meet our housing needs, 

But we also need to focus on sustainability and the environment.

The UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November is a crucial opportunity to showcase councils’ leadership on the environment and delivering net zero. 

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. 

Children and young people

Wrapping services around children in myriad ways must be the approach we take to building a child-centred recovery. Councils understand their communities and are perfectly placed to make sure children and their families get the joined-up support they need, both through the hundreds of services they deliver and by working with government and local partners, including schools. We need:

  • to invest in preventative and early help services
  • a cross-Whitehall strategy putting children and young people at the heart of recovery
  • to reform the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) system, and recognise councils’ role in education 
  • to work towards a more sustainable funding base.

Economic recovery

Councils can work with government to deliver an ambitious programme of financial stimulus, and have the knowledge and expertise to direct funds where they will have the most immediate impact to protect jobs and livelihoods and support long-term transformation of the economy, infrastructure and services. 

Local economies are different and will need different things to stimulate them. Some require greater connectivity, some need to transition to new industries, and others are short of affordable housing. Understanding the exact nature of an effective and sustainable stimulus can only be carried out locally. Councils are ambitious and optimistic about local prospects, while anticipating and mitigating risks and tackling inequalities where possible. 

Net zero

Councils are fundamental to transitioning our places and empowering our communities and businesses to a net zero future. They are well-placed to translate national climate ambitions into transformative action on the ground through their:  

  • place-shaping role
  • purchasing powers and market shaping
  • problem-solving and direct delivery
  • use of council assets
  • role as convenors and communicators.

Public health

Local government and public health should work with national and system partners to develop a new model for health protection – one that does not just tackle outbreaks or incidents, but also responds to the impact on individuals, and harnesses the power of communities.

Local areas need to be given the tools and support to understand and address the economic, social and psychological impacts of the pandemic, and the serious health inequalities that have been highlighted and deepened. We can then start to build an approach that finally addresses deep-rooted issues and has a genuine chance of levelling up.

Jobs, skills, training and welfare support

Although there are significant challenges ahead, a joint endeavour between local and national government will deliver greater opportunities and the recovery that our local communities deserve. 

People want more opportunities, more jobs, progress in careers and good work, locally. To make this happen, we need a renewed partnership with central government focused on:

  • the co-design of jobs and skills recovery
  • councils coordinating skills provision locally
  • the LGA’s Work Local programme and the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper
  • support for low-income and economically vulnerable households.

Council finance

Councils’ pandemic response has shown the need for, and impressive impact of, well-resourced, efficient and effective local services. To best deliver for their residents – and, by doing so, maximise their contribution to the nation’s economic and social recovery – council services need certainty, together with sufficient long-term and sustainable funding.

Adult social care

If we build back local, we can put people at the heart of a new, reformed approach to social care that is locally led.

The future reform of social care and support needs to start with the most urgent priorities:

  • sustainable long-term funding that is sufficient to meet the predictable additional demands on social care driven by demographic and other pressures
  • honesty about how more funding is required to tackle unmet need
  • a new deal for the care workforce, ensuring parity of esteem with colleagues in the NHS and action on pay, training and development, and recognition
  • a strong relationship with the NHS and other partners. 

Housing, planning and building safety

The longer-term ambition has to be to deliver local areas that have high-quality affordable homes built in the right places, supported by the right infrastructure, which provide enough schools, promote greener and more active travel, and tackle climate change. This will need a national/local partnership that starts with a locally led planning approach with public participation at its heart.

If local and national government work with partners there is a greater chance of delivering the homes local communities need but with a much broader vision around place, helping level up across planning, housing, achieving net zero, and building safety. 

‘Build back local’ sets out why now is the time for government to broaden its thinking and explore what success could look like for our communities – visit our website for more details.

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