Daniel Goodwin

Local Government Association Conference key messages

It has taken me over a week to decide what I thought about the LGA conference. My view of the opportunities and challenges of the emerging framework around the coalition Government is a relatively positive one.

At the conference itself there was marked polarisation of delegates on a glum to optimistic axis, and some puzzlement at some of the inconsistencies that became apparent in the presentations. There was also a further paradox in the expected scale of community and service engagement. On the one hand we are encouraged to think of responses driven by and customised to the requirements of neighbourhoods of (say) around 1000, and on the other people are talking about some form of place based budgeting which seeks to deliver results on a large scale of (say) 500,000.

There were some who were clearly waiting for guidance and retreating into statutory silos. Whilst understandable in some ways this is a strategy from the past and a recipe for disaster. So what should we be doing? Here are five suggestions:

  1. Take the initiative and show how it can help us do the right thing for the place we lead
  2. Enable local politicians to think through leadership and delivery at the local and neighbourhood level and how that might relate to new ways of working between public services and between the public, private and voluntary sectors
  3. Don’t get hung up on structure and work closely with other councils, voluntary sector and the community on efficiency and flexibility
  4. There will be no guidance, so get on with it and be clear about local priorities and brave about ceasing to work on non-priorities
  5. Promote what’s on offer relentlessly most importantly with the local community, but also within the sector and with the Government

This is a critical moment of truth for Local Government. It is imperative to take the government at its word. That means not trying to work out what the tune is so we can dance to it, but as always, and within admittedly tight budgetary constraints, to do the right thing for the places we serve.

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