Forget what you think you know…about councils

The LGA’s podcasts aim to improve public understanding of what councils do.

Last year, the LGA launched its new podcast show, Forget What You Think You Know. 

The podcast aims to uncover truths about councils and the services they deliver, and highlight the key challenges councils face to keep these services running. 

Each episode features special guests, who discuss key topics and what they would like to see changed to help councils deliver for their communities. 

Our aim is for the podcasts to provide a helpful insight for those who are new to local government, and to give the general public a better understanding of what councils do for them. 

In our most recent episode, launched in May, Esther Barrott, a graduate on the National Graduate Development Programme, takes us on a journey to find out more about what councils do and how they work, the general perceptions that surround them, and the importance of local elections.

Esther is joined first by Cllr Peter Fleming, Chair of the LGA’s Improvement and Innovation Board, who shares why he got involved in local government and what the role of a councillor involves.

“You have got to love people; we are in a people-to-people business”, he says, describing how a five-minute walk up the high street can take 40 minutes because people stop him to talk about everything from sustainable transport and economic development to whether the council should buy a building as an investment.

Also featured is Jackie Weaver, Chief Officer of Cheshire Association of Local Councils, who gives an insight into the story behind the famous parish council meeting that made her an internet star,and talks about why voting in local elections is so important.

“It’s probably the local elections that are going to have far more impact on our lives than the national politics,” she says.

“My interest is really more about local communities and helping people to do what they think is right for their local community. I do feel very strongly that, in local democracy, there’s a place for everybody.”

We also hear from Lord Simon Woolley, Founder and Director of Operation Black Vote, on why it is important that diverse audiences engage with councils and local democracy. 

Councils “could be engines of change”, he tells Esther – but they have to look at themselves, their senior teams and their council chambers, see “where the gaps are”, and act. 

“They say that their doors are open, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough because [of] the cynicism of many communities, including working class, [who] feel, ‘What’s the point of engaging, when the people that are making these decisions don’t care about me?’” says Lord Woolley. 

“Leaving it to people that don’t care about you is not a good plan for democracy, is not a good plan for your children’s education or housing or health. It’s getting the citizens to realise that they are the democratic masters and recognising that those in the council chambers, the local council chambers, are the democratic servants.” 

This is the fourth episode in the Forget What You Think You Know series, and follows previous podcasts on the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, homelessness, and council housing.  

A new episode will be available each month, with forthcoming topics including devolution, employment and skills, and climate change. Please show your support by listening, downloading, subscribing, and sharing the podcast with your friends and family.

Visit the LGA’s podcast webpage for more information, or download our podcasts by searching ‘LGA podcast’ on Apple podcasts, Spotify and Acast.

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