Signals of the future

What issues might local government leaders find in their inboxes by 2027?

For some years, local government has been focused on battling the acute challenges facing their communities, from COVID-19 to the cost-of-living crisis.

With councils’ attention on the here and now, it can be hard for local leaders to find the time and space to consider potential solutions for tomorrow’s challenges.

So, the LGA has worked with market researcher Ipsos to conduct a ‘horizon scan’ of what new issues might be on the local government agenda in 2027.

By offering signals of how the future might look in five years’ time, our report allows leaders to consider the steps and policies needed to mitigate possible threats, and capitalise on future opportunities – helping them move towards the future they want to see.

‘Signals of the future’, launched at the LGA’s annual conference in Harrogate by Ipsos Chief Executive Ben Page (pictured), identifies 13 ‘drivers of uncertainty’ – key questions that will shape the future issues faced by local government.

For example, in a very tight labour market, how do councils retain and upskill their staff while competing with other sectors to recruit the tech-savvy workers needed to make councils more responsive to data?

“We will see rising older populations in inner cities”

“Most of the people you will be serving in 2027 are already here,” Mr Page told conference delegates, noting that a third of current school-age children are non-white British.

Councils are among the first bodies to deal with this cohort: how can they understand the support this generation will need in education and as they enter adulthood?

And as the UK becomes an increasingly aged society, the report suggests we will see rising older populations in areas that are not traditionally associated with older people – inner cities.

Urban areas might find it easier to cater for older people as they tend to have better public transport and a greater concentration of services near populations, but they will face other challenges, such as higher levels of pensioner poverty.

Climate change is a driver of planetary change – but data suggests a fully renewable UK power grid will require a lot more space than is currently allotted to electricity generation. As local authorities can be significant landowners and act as arbiters of how space is used, a number of tensions can be expected as they trade off more land for power generation against other uses.

How we bridge the digital divide, the future of our high streets, providing mental health support for people of all ages, and the new restrictions councils might face are among some of the other future challenges raised in the report.

While Government reforms to empower local leaders to deliver improvements in housing, planning, education, social care and tackling climate change may be on hold pending the outcome of the Conservative leadership contest, there is a real opportunity now for councils to look at what the next few years may bring.

This is the start of a conversation across local government about some of these ‘big ideas’, as the LGA looks to drive forward a long-term policy agenda. After all, councils and your local leadership are integral to the future.

We are inviting councils to engage with these ideas, and you can send us your proposals for change – please visit www.local.gov.uk/signals-future to find out more.

‘Signals of the future – horizon scanning for local government’ is available in full at www.local.gov.uk/publications

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