Now is the time to reflect, reset and reimagine the future of local government

By Graeme McDonald | 22 September 2020
  • Graeme McDonald

For me October has long meant the Solace Summit and the opportunity to reflect, reset and reimagine. My first Solace event was in Belfast in 2008, while I was working at Ealing LBC. It was the week of the Icelandic banking collapse and, in the intervening 12 years, local government has had to deal with the fallout from several significant global and national events. Sadly, the current crisis means that local government colleagues from around the globe will not be gathering in person this autumn.

2020 has challenged local government like no other; an exhausting time in which the pace of change and pressure to deliver has been relentless. Yet we leave the summer months behind with a nationally-devised testing system buckling as COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, local lockdowns are extended, and the prospect of an extended recession with transformational consequences to the structure of our economies, all while the sector’s financial and social care challenges have, if anything, deepened.

Unfortunately, it is all too easy to paint a bleak picture where local government professionals become the administrators of decline. But we should remain optimistic. COVID has seen councils across the UK repeatedly step up to deliver, demonstrating the value of the state at a local level often in direct contrast to the ineffective plan emanating from Westminster. But the sector still needs support, in particular on the financial front. If that is addressed, councils have all the skill, imagination and drive needed to enhance local resilience and strengthen economic and social infrastructure to build Britain back better.

Solace is at heart a learning organisation, driven to share expertise and learn from others, and this year is no different. Developing our Virtual Learning Week has been an opportunity to democratise our approach and create a learning experience everyone working in local government can gain value from.

Now is the time to reflect, reset and reimagine the future of local government – if not now, then when?

Graeme McDonald is managing director of Solace

Bookings are now open for Solace’s conference Reflect. Reset. Re-imagine. The event runs 12-16 October.

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