One of my favourite parts of this job is the chance to work with our great councillors across the country – people who strive to make the places they live better and improve people’s lives.
It’s an ambition I share. My passion for local government isn’t just professional, it’s deeply personal. My father built his career in local government – ultimately becoming a chief executive – and I grew up with local government.
The task facing us is wide ranging, but having met so many of you, I know that we share the ambition to make a real difference.
Working together, we have to tackle people’s housing concerns in a meaningful way. We must build quality homes for young people, families and everyone else who needs a place to call their own.
In doing so, we must be mindful of protecting the green belt but also recognise that compromise will sometimes be needed.
No-one is better placed to do this than local councillors like you. After all, you know your communities better than anyone else.
Your achievements speak for themselves. Many of you have continued to deliver quality public services and have maintained public satisfaction levels in a tough financial environment.
I know this hasn’t always been easy. I am committed to working with you as we put local government finance on a fair and sustainable footing to serve all parts of our country.
This includes important work on the latest phase of our business rates retention programme, which gives local councils the incentives they need to grow their local economies.
And, as online shopping’s impact is felt on our high streets, it’s time for a diverse approach where new businesses and start-ups can flourish.
Investment in our high streets does not only mean thriving local economies, but also thriving communities – places where people from all backgrounds can come together in confident and well-integrated communities.
We must stand together at this critical moment, and seize this chance to consider what local government in the 21st century can do, and what it can be.
We have bold choices to make. Choices that, ultimately, will be critical to meeting the aspirations of the people we serve: to build more homes, deliver great public services and create vibrant communities that can prosper.
I am confident that, by working together, we can achieve this and more.