Hindsight is 2020

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.

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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.

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Unfinished business

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.

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.

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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.

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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. 

Managing remotely

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.


By April, everything had changed, cases were rising as were death tolls. LGIU focused on supporting councils with briefings and best practice.

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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.

Electric fleets

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.

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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.

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We launched our Post Covid councils workstream, helping local government think through the challenges of getting through and beyond the pandemic.

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Sustainable futures

The LGIU’s Sustainable Futures theme, as part of our Post-Covid Councils project, has highlighted the practical and pressing opportunities open to local government and its partners in building a cleaner, greener, more sustainable and ultimately fairer future for all.


Beahviour change, recovery planning, changes to planning and food access and security.

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Place community and a planning to return to normality.

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.


As case numbers crept up we continued to provide information support while looking at devolution and democracy.

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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.

Young Leadership

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.

Social mobility

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.


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.

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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.