Strength and imagination

This year’s Innovation Zone was the ‘beating heart’ of the LGA’s annual conference.

The LGA’s Innovation Zone has once again demonstrated the importance and value that councils place on learning from each other.

I’m delighted that so many councils were able to share their own innovation with such a responsive audience. Set around the theme ‘Resilience and renewal’, the programme featured wide-ranging presentations, offering new learning and inspirational ideas for all those attending.

I had the pleasure of delivering the opening session for this event, which launched the LGA’s annual report for its sector support programme, and highlighted the strength and imagination of councils in responding to challenges in new and innovative ways.

The Innovation Zone (IZ) programme shone a light on some of that work through nearly 40 sessions on different topics.

Among the sessions taking place, delegates had the opportunity to learn about: developments in adult social care; the difference made by using wellbeing and happiness as a measure of economic success; the case for a national free bikes movement; the benefits of the circular economy approach; and technological innovations – for instance, the world’s first 5G-connected forest, featuring Eric, Nottinghamshire County Council’s robotic dog.

‘Spotlight on…’ talks – our new addition to the IZ programme – were extremely well attended, and challenged councils to engage, learn and be inspired while thinking differently about big ideas.

This series was kick-started by a presentation by Exeter City Council on partnerships and place leadership. It was followed by other talks, including on Torbay Council’s children’s services’ improvement journey and Hull City Council’s award-winning Future Work Design project, with the University of Hull, on managing stress risks in local authority settings.

With climate change at or near the top of many council agendas, the Spotlight on Climate Change panel session, facilitated by Cllr Liz Green, was the most popular IZ talk.

This discussion attracted more than 100 delegates, who heard how the Carbon Co-Op and Centre for Local Economic Strategies are practising community-led energy planning in Oldham; how the East of England LGA is improving collaboration between councils and businesses to achieve climate goals; and about the University of Exeter’s local climate adaptation tool, which identifies the health implications of climate change in local areas.

The IZ also provided opportunities to learn more about the support available to councils through the LGA. For example: the LGA’s Cyber 360 offer and the difference this has made for Dorset council; the new social housing peer challenge; and LG Inform, the LGA’s powerful benchmarking tool, which provides councils with free access to more than 10,000 data items and more than 50 reports, to support better decision-making.

For the last three sessions, running in parallel, every headset was in use and it was standing room only, with topics as diverse as drones, community planning in Wales, and adult social care. It was the perfect metaphor for a very busy three days in the IZ.

Providing a hive of ideas and activity, the Innovation Zone –  dubbed the ‘beating heart’ of the LGA’s conference by delegates – was a credit to the many councils and contributors involved (including Newton, who again sponsored the IZ this year).

My thanks go to the incredible team at the LGA who made this year’s IZ possible and such a fantastic success.

Presentations from the Innovation Zone will be available on the LGA’s website at To find out more about the LGA’s sector support programme, please visit, or contact the principal adviser for your region – see


Supporting council improvement

LGA Annual Conference and Exhibition 2022