COVID-19 has driven home the huge importance of locality

By Cllr John Fuller OBE | 28 July 2020

As we move out of the coronavirus pandemic and begin the national recovery, we once more return to the major issue of local government reorganisation and devolution.

But this is by no means a return to normal times, and the conversation will inevitably be steered by how the country grasps the post-Brexit and post-COVID opportunities to build a better future.

If we were in any doubt, the COVID-19 outbreak has driven home the huge importance of locality.

It has demonstrated emphatically that local works best, and that bigger is most certainly not always better.

The pace of innovation in solving final mile problems has shown that local governance is much more than the analysis of numbers and spreadsheets.

Locality is key.

We must look to the future at delivering services in ways that make most sense to people and businesses and the way in which they live their lives.

That does not mean being handcuffed to remote boundaries laid down a millennium ago or imposing too much on the thousands of unpaid volunteers in 9,000 parish councils.

If there are to be changes in local governance it must be a locality-led approach and recognise that district councils are the building blocks of local economies and the champions of towns, cities and communities, providing that much-needed support to over 20 million residents and businesses across 60% of England.

This is a pivotal point in our great island story. It will take local leadership that balances scale with the local understanding and celebration of the variation in every part of our nation.

Now is not the time to level-down to the lowest common denominator. But to lift our eyes from the gutter and recognise that a council is more than just a transactional entity.

Embedding that simple truth as we go forward will do more to aid the national recovery, because we are the people that will rebuild the country by understanding and harnessing the heart of each locality ensuring that nobody is left behind on the journey we are all about to embark on.

Cllr John Fuller OBE is chairman of the District Councils’ Network

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