2020 has been a tumultuous year and one that has put local government to the test. We are looking back over the year to reflect on some of our most impactful work. Some of it captures the needs of the moment, but we have chosen pieces that have learning we can reflect on further as manage crises on the horizon and look ahead to build better days.
We started the year looking back and looking ahead. Reflecting on a decade of unfulfilled policy potential and what the 2020s might hold. News of a strange illness in China was just reaching us as Australia was dealing with fallout of summer bushfires.
Over the New Year we reflected on a decade of policy for local government that didn’t get done. We will be refreshing this work in early 2021 to look at the impact of Covid and the potential impact of Brexit on the policies that matter most to people where they live – like children, social care and public health.
Devolution in the 2020s
The UK Government’s commitment to ‘levelling up’ could offer exciting prospects for greater powers for local government, but given the historical tendency of the centre to cling to control. Andrew Walker examines the prospects for real transfer of power in the 2020s.
Game of Drones
As drones move from disruption to disruptive technology, how can councils gain from unmanned aircraft? What savings can they make? What steps do they need to take to get their implementation right whilst maintaining public confidence and safety? And will they need to employ air traffic controllers? Read the briefing.
Eco-anxiety: What can local government do?
In 2017, an increasingly pervasive worry was defined for the first time by the American Psychological Association as ‘eco-anxiety’: “a chronic fear of environmental doom”. This briefing will investigate the rise of this phenomenon across the world and explore the ways in which local governments can both become more environmentally sustainable themselves and help employees and communities. The supportive advice could apply equally well to other forms of anxiety. Read the briefing.
Shared lives are winning lives
A guest post from Lesley Stevenson of Shared Lives Scotland about the difference that this approach to social care is making to lives in Aberdeenshire.
Disaster lessons from Australia
As we prepared to welcome Australia to LGIU, we spoke to Luke Nicholls of SGS planning about the Australian bushfires and what lessons councils around the world can learn from disaster and recovery. Little did we know what awaited us. Listen here.
We drew lessons from around the globe and reflected on policy stagnation.
Local government around the world
In 2019 we brought together our LGIU home country websites under one digital roof to better share local insights from around the globe. This collection highlights some of the lessons of local government around the world.
Responding to environmental crises
LGIU Australia looked at land use planning for natural disasters and climate change and also explained the drought relief available for rural and regional communities.
The changing world of work: Future work
Technology is transforming our lives. Work is changing and future livelihoods are at stake. With in-work poverty and insecurity rising, and average pay still recovering to pre-crisis levels, ‘good work’ and productivity are high on the political agenda in the UK. What will future work look like? Read the briefing.
Are dead men dominating policy decisions?
James Mitchell, Professor of Public Policy at Edinburgh University, wrote on the difficulties of creating effective policy for current times in the face of historical policies and spending commitments, where the unpopularity of reversing decisions creates inertia in policy making. Will we make a return to old ways when the Covid crisis recedes?
As the pandemic hit, local government focused and changed the way it worked, galvanising residents and reaching out to people in need.
There's something catching
It’s full circle. As we realised the pandemic was approaching, we spoke to cabinet members with responsibility for Covid preparations and for public messaging to reduce vaccine hesitancy for the MMR for the LGIU podcast. Have a listen.
For most local authorities moving towards more home and remote working has been a part of the agenda for some years. This has been driven by commercial opportunities afforded by freeing up office space and as a means of providing more flexible opportunities for employment. We provided guidance as well as online training to support councils to manage their business and their meetings remotely.
Covid-19 and civil society responses
Public health bundle
We collected our existing and new resources on public health, with many briefings and new content to support councils.
By April, everything had changed, cases were rising as were death tolls. LGIU focused on supporting councils with briefings and best practice.
Global Covid-19 responses
We looked around the world at different countries’ and different local governments’ responses to Covid-19 and compiled them here. Germany, Greece, Sweden, Montreal and more. We also began our Global-Local pandemic bulletin so people in local government could see responses and recovery around the globe in real time.
This changes everything
The heat of the moment is not the time for a full evaluation, however, this LGIU think-piece suggests some tentative lessons of Covid-19 and potential implications for policy making in the longer term. When in the eye of the storm it is difficult to think beyond the immediate pressure, but when the pandemic has abated it will be important to reflect and learn lessons that will make us better prepared and more resilient for the future.
Local government communications
In April, we were beginning to realise we faced an infodemic as well as a pandemic. This briefing highlighted how local government communications could make a difference during coronavirus.
This Australian briefing explores the role of councillors and council staff in dealing with adoption of electric vehicles in local government fleets, and also covers the provision of fleet charging infrastructure, and planning policies related to charging infrastructure.
Covid-19 and the economic impact
It is clear that Covid-19 is already having a profound impact on economies globally, nationally and locally. There have been several important reports published on the possible longer-term fiscal and economic implications which are summarised in this briefing.
We were beginning to reflect on the lessons learned and planning for recovery.
Lessons on health and social care
We rounded up the early lessons on health and social care and looked at how the pandemic was affecting the already perilous social care crisis.
Covid-19, bushfires and recovery
Australia has had to contend with two unprecedented crises over the past six months: catastrophic bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic. The subsequent economic decline across Australia considerable and varied. This briefing provides a summary and linkages for those planning for the recovery phase and need to understand the impacts on their local economies.
Active travel and recovery
In lockdown, people walked and biked and we saw a potential for a more sustainable recovery. This briefing looked at the benefits of active travel in recovery and provided updates on statutory guidance. We followed up on this issue looking at how to encourage active travel in June and in investing in it in December.
It became painfully clear that health and social justice are not available equally.
Covid-19 and BAME communities
The differential impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities has been startling and devastating. We collected our briefings from the UK and Australia in a bundle.
Black lives matter
We’re all in the same storm, but not in same boat. We recorded an interview with Bristol’s mayor Marvin Rees for the podcast and Jane Sankarayya captured the impact of health inequalities while Lucy Zhu looked at how councils could support racial justice in a pandemic.
Gender, recession and recovery
We published a briefing on the differential impact of the pandemic on women, the economic impact on women has been greater and we need to consider social infrastructure in recovery.
The Circularity Gap
The circularity gap is the gap between the amount of resources used in production and consumption, and the proportion of these that come from recycled sources. This briefing explores how local governments can include reporting on the circularity gap as part of their wider annual reporting processes, measuring their role in transitioning to a circular economy.
Covid-19 and the economy
This bundle brought together our most recent content on the economy and employment. The pandemic presents central and local government with profound economic and social challenges. It includes a look at the lessons of previous recessions for this recovery.
We launched our Post Covid councils workstream, helping local government think through the challenges of getting through and beyond the pandemic.
We collected recent resources on homelessness including a recording of our live event with Dame Louise Casey, Chair of the COVID-19 Rough Sleeping Taskforce.
Neighbourhood engagement: how local government can effectively deliver participation is based on the South African experience but will be relevant to councils around the world.
Sport and play
We published a briefing of the impact of the lockdown on the sport and leisure sector and planning for recovery and advice on how to balance health and economy for coastal towns.
Beahviour change, recovery planning, changes to planning and food access and security.
Nudge, fudge and sludge: behavioural insights and Covid-19
Governments across the world are using a variety of policy interventions to tackle Covid-19, from edicts and enforcement to ‘nudges’ and public information campaigns. This swift read breaks down the ins and outs of behaviour change.
Covid-19 impacted food security in local areas around the world. In this bundle, we gather our resources about the impact of Covid-19 on food security as well as broader issues about food, access, nutrition and public health.
Mapping recovery for libraries and leisure services
A briefing of the impact of Covid on these vital and loved public services, their financial position and plans for recovery in the UK.
Place community and a planning to return to normality.
Innovation in local government
Building local resilience in a time of pandemic – a briefing on the impact, resilience and innovation of local public services in Ireland with lessons that can be drawn globally.
Back to school
We outlined some of the difficulties and plans for re-opening schools in the Northern Hemisphere, with our Back to School bundle of briefings and blogs.
Place and community
We launched the next pillar of our Post-Covid councils work, Place and Community. This is a comprehensive reflection on what we’ve learned about community through the pandemic and astonishingly deep collection of LGIU resources on community building and resilience.
We also launchd our municipal book club – with Invisible Women by Caroline Criado Perez. Look out for more book club meetings in the new year. This post has links to many other LGIU resources on gender and local government.
As case numbers crept up we continued to provide information support while looking at devolution and democracy.
Power down to level up
Can we have health elections in a pandemic?
Watching the American elections and elections around the world and anticipating the elections across the UK in May, we look at what it takes to prepare and deliver this critical element of democracy and what the UK needs to do now.
We conducted an extraordinary interview with Peymana Assad, a Harrow councillor and Obama Foundation young leader. This podcast episode outlined the joys of delivering for community and the challenges of developing a political career in an adopted country.
We celebrated the best in local government, while looking at misinformation, truth and social mobility.
You CAN handle the truth
We launched the Trust and Governance pillar of Post-Covid Councils with an findings from a new survey of councillors on misinformation in You can handle the truth: how councils can build trust and recovery in an age of alternate facts.
We shared our collected resources on social mobility and hosted an event with the Social Mobility Commission on the role of local government in developing more equal life chances.
12 steps for digital inclusion
We have seen a rapid shift in the use of digital during the pandemic, but there is still work to do in ensuring everyone can take advantage of technology. This blog from Carnegie looks at the steps we can take.
The LGIU’s famous Cllr Awards are the only awards for councillors in England and Scotland and this year provided a heartwarming profile of the work councillors do in their communities day in and day out as well as in a crisis. You can get an overview of the winners, see the whole awards ceremony here or listen to our podcast interviews with the winners of our coveted Leaders of the Year.
We finish the year in the grips of new surge in cases but hopes of a vaccine. We look at the future of local public services in the midst of wider crises.
A critical juncture: lessons from Covid-19
Our briefing on the Public Services Committee of the House of Lords report, A critical juncture for public services: lessons from COVID-19. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of how public services responded to the pandemic, discusses lessons to be learned and recommends key principles to transform public service delivery.
The future of local government
Our penultimate Post-Covid councils pillar launch looks at the future of local government in the context of climate, public health, financial and democratic peril and examines the ways that we can work together, flex and strive to have a solid municipal future to deliver for local people.
A triumph of the Covid response has been the work of community groups and hubs. This swift read looks at the lessons of how community hubs have responded to the crisis.
Domestic and family violence
This briefing looks at the role of local government in helping to reduce domestic and family violence in Australia and provides links to the work of a number of councils in New South Wales.
Substance abuse and homelessness
Illicit drug use and homelessness: how Canada and the UK are dealing with a growing crisis highlights lessons and practice solving these twin problems and whether these approaches could be used in the UK. This could be usefully read with a briefing on the Scottish programme of Ending Homelessness Together.