Spotlight on our councils

Learning from the coronavirus crisis and supporting a sustainable recovery were among the themes discussed at the LGA’s virtual Innovation Zone.

This year’s Innovation Zone – our vibrant, creative space and programme within the LGA’s annual conference – was going to be the best yet. You would have been able to touch and feel gadgets, engage in debate with fellow councils and hear the most innovative, groundbreaking ideas in local government. 

But when COVID-19 put paid to holding a physical conference, we devised an innovative way to shine a virtual ‘spotlight’ on councils and their response to this crisis with our ‘Spotlight on…’ webinar series.

Learning Through Crisis’ was the first event in this series and focused on lessons from the pandemic: what worked, what didn’t, and making this knowledge stick.

We heard about Shropshire Council’s work with local partners to provide safe and stable accommodation, and how Hull City Council worked with young people to give targeted guidance and support via the www.howareyoufeeling.org.uk website.

Hackney Council highlighted how data can identify the most vulnerable and help provide targeted support, while Watford District Council demonstrated the meaning of leadership through crisis, mobilising a unified workforce and community, and using the learning from this to underpin a new corporate strategy.

Our ‘Green Reset’ webinar explored how new ‘green’ behaviours and a renewed focus on the environment can achieve a more sustainable recovery.

Cllr Liz Green, Vice-Chair of the Improvement and Innovation Board, highlighted how quarantine measures have resulted in changes to the way we work and live that benefit the environment. The webinar also heard from Swindon Borough Council, Local Partnerships, Wirral Council and London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Another webinar showcased the rapid response of councillors during COVID-19. Cllr Judi Billing, Deputy Chair of the Improvement and Innovation Board, discussed how the pandemic has led to new, positive ways of working and the need to build on these for the future.

The webinar heard practical examples from councillors across the country of how they have worked in different and innovative ways to meet the needs of their residents, and what they have learned from the experience.

This prompted further discussion around the importance of diversity in local politics, our mental health as councillors, and how we can support each other as we continue to effect positive change in our communities. 

Our final session focused on the LGA’s sector-led improvement (SLI) offer and launched our end-of-year report, giving highlights including that 94 per cent of leaders and 98 per cent of chief executives say support from the LGA has a positive impact on their authority.

This was a lively and interactive session, attended by 150 people, involving a virtual Q&A and polling, an excellent line-up of speakers – including colleagues from St Helens Council, Essex County Council and the National Audit Office – and reflections from lead members of the Improvement and Innovation Board.

Audience feedback from this session will be used to assess how we can strengthen SLI so that it continues to meet councils’ needs, now and in the post-COVID world.

This truly sector-led series of events would have been impossible without the councillors and officers who spoke at them – so, thank you again to all involved.

While this virtual webinar series was a world apart from what we had in mind at the start of this year, it was a roaring success.

Now begins the countdown to Liverpool 2021 – I hope to see you there.

Recordings and presentations from the Spotlight sessions are available at www.local.gov.uk/lga-annual-conference-webinars. To read our SLI report, please visit www.local.gov.uk/sector-led-improvement-end-year-report-2019-20.

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