Local government is in his DNA, says Councillor Shaun Davies, the LGA’s youngest ever Chair
When Shaun Davies graduated in law from Aberystwyth University, he made a “conscious decision” to go home to Telford, to live and work locally.
“It sounds a bit cheesy, but I genuinely thought that the area I was brought up in could be better,” he says.
“I was talking to people and they said, ‘if you think you can do better, why don’t you get involved?’”
He did – and was instrumental in the local election campaign that took Labour from opposition to power in Telford & Wrekin Council in 2011 and saw him elected for the first time, aged 24.
He was immediately put in a cabinet position, taking on a variety of roles and becoming England’s youngest council leader in 2016.
Now 37, the stepfather and father of three children, aged 14,10 and 6, says that his passion and desire to make the area better is even stronger now his family is using the services the council provides.
“That friends and family test is really important to me,” he says.
“What really motivated me to become a councillor was the ability to get things done in a way that you just can’t if you are in any other area of politics.
“Even though it’s challenging, the ability to set out a plan, deliver against it, and see the tangible benefits and results really excites me.”
“There is a £3 billion challenge just for us to stand still”
After some time with his “head down” in his local area, he started to “look out” more across the sector, and undertook the LGA’s “first-class” Leaders development programme in 2019/20.
He progressed to positions on the LGA’s policy-making boards, including a stint as Chair of the LGA’s Resources Board, and was elected LGA Labour Group Leader in June 2022.
Cllr Davies is also a massive fan of the LGA’s improvement work – having been lead member of countless peer reviews across England and Wales.
His three priorities are: for the LGA to be the best membership organisation it can; to be ready for the next General Election; and to focus on care leavers and children in care.
“Councils have a unique relationship with children in their care, as corporate parents,” he says.
“I want the LGA to be the corporate aunty or uncle of children in care. If you had a family member with the resources, connections and influences that the LGA has, you would absolutely want to tap into it.”
Cllr Davies identifies the biggest challenge facing councils as in-year financial pressures, with demand for services rising as the cost-of-living crisis adds to councils’ own energy costs, contractual inflation, and staff wages.
“We need to make the case to government, as we have been doing, that there is a £3 billion challenge just for us to stand still,” he says.
“When we look across the country, so many things aren’t working; we can’t afford for local government not to be working right now.”
Cllr Davies is also Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Telford, and excited, but frustrated, that the two opportunities have come so close together.“The LGA Chair is a dream job for me. It is the biggest gig in local government for an elected member – but, equally, representing my home town in Parliament would also be amazing,” he says.
“Whatever the result, local government will always be in my DNA.”