England & Wales, Global, Scotland Communities and society, Economy and regeneration, Welfare and equalities

Local response to crisis offers some hope


Find out about more approaches to the cost of living crisis in our collection of resources. 

How are councils helping communities cope with the cost of living crisis? Needless to say, they are in the front line, but what do these efforts look like and what do they tell us about the role of local government in public life?

There is always a risk that familiarity breeds, if not contempt, then at least a form of resignation. So it is worth reminding ourselves of the scale of the cost of living crisis faced by households across the country.

In June, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation surveyed low income households and found nearly half had family members cutting down on food or skipping meals and three in 10 were unable to adequately heat their homes.

Since then, we have seen inflation hit double figures, food prices have gone up by 15% in a year and the Office for National Statistics reports electricity prices rising by 54% and gas prices by 96%. Meanwhile, the pound is heading for parity with the dollar and rising interest rates are putting pressure on mortgage costs and on rent.

Against this background, councils across the country are acting to protect the most vulnerable in their community and are finding they are also needing to offer support to parts of the population that are not normally in need.

This support takes many forms. Councils have been administering the £150 council tax rebate for households in bands A-D for the past six months. But they are also taking more direct action.

South Tyneside, for example, is just one of many councils across the country setting up ‘warm banks’; their Warm Spaces programme sees over 50 spaces, including council buildings, community centres, churches and charities, now available to the public as places to enjoy a hot drink, access free activities or the internet and simply to keep warm – you would be forgiven for noting in passing just how dystopian this is. (Read more about their approach here.)

Pretty much every local authority in the country has now set up a cost of living support hub on their website, offering advice on a range of topics, from accessing financial support, to using energy efficiently and seeking mental health support.

Councils are extending their work to support local businesses, often in inventive ways that have a direct community benefit.

Glasgow City Council is giving low income households gift cards that can only be spent in local shops, thus supporting those in need and local businesses at the same time.

And from Lewisham to Leeds, councils are feeding people: both working with local food banks and delivering food parcels directly to the most vulnerable.

It is a pretty bleak picture. Councils across the country are fighting a rising tide of poverty and standing, in many instances, as the last bulwark against complete destitution.

There is an important political debate to be had about how, as a rich country, we come to be here and what we do about it. But I would add three observations.

First, councils are providing heroic levels of support to communities but they do this from an incredibly insecure position themselves.

A decade of funding reductions has left local government financially vulnerable. It now faces huge increases in bills itself, not least on energy.

Many councils worry about where they will find further savings, whether they will be able to fund statutory services let alone non-statutory ones and there is a widespread expectation we will see more section 114 notices issued in coming months.

We still lack a settled process for funding local government, on top of which we have no stable local government policy and there is talk of new rounds of spending cuts. None of this is sustainable.

Second, councils are not doing this alone. They are working in partnership with local voluntary sector groups, the private sector and communities themselves. As through the pandemic, we find to a large degree, emergency protocols are also partnership protocols.

Finally, we should stress, only councils can do these things. It is only local government that has the granular local knowledge and networks to support communities in these ways. Warm space programmes illustrate this neatly.

It is only local bodies that can know where need is concentrated and what spaces are available in those locations and that will look different in different places.

Perhaps there is a library, or maybe there is a village hall, but maybe there is not, and a local church or café that could step in. You just cannot run that sort of intervention efficiently from the centre.

In these two final points we see the shape of something that works – locally led, collaboratively cross-sector and democratically accountable.

Some grounds for hope amidst the bleakness? Perhaps, as so often in our response to crisis, for better or worse, we see the faint outline of a future yet to emerge.

Dr Jonathan Carr-West is chief executive of the LGiU

This article was originally published in the Municipal Journal. 


Ireland Climate action and sustainable development, Communities and society, Economy and regeneration

Active Travel in Galway City Council: Ireland’s First City Centre School Street


Responsible for the island of Ireland’s sixth most populated city, Galway City Council is a local authority in the West of Ireland responsible for a population of 80,000 and a budget of €103,577,762.

In 2020, Galway City Council launched a pilot School Streets programme – the first city centre School Street in Ireland. A ‘School Street’ is a road outside a school with a temporary restriction on motorised traffic at school drop off and pick up times – creating a safer, calmer space for children, parents and residents to walk, scoot or cycle.

Launched in partnership with Scoil Iognáid, the National Transport Authority and An Taisce’s (National Heritage Body) Green-Schools programme, Scoil Iognáid is a mixed, primary, Gaelscoil (Irish speaking school), with almost 540 children from 349 families travelling to the school every day (2020). The school has approximately 250 children under seven arriving on site every day.

The project arose out of concerns of parents and school management about the interactions between children and cars in the front of the school environment – a narrow, residential street in an older part of Galway City. The National Transport Authority identifies the front of school as the place where children congregate in the greatest numbers and where they are most vulnerable to indiscriminate parking practices, hazardous crossing conditions and air quality issues from idling cars.

It was intended to launch the School Streets pilot in May 2020 – however Covid 19 impacts and restrictions delayed the formal scheme. The school encouraged parents to participate in a ‘voluntary’ School Street as children returned to school in September 2020, following months of school closures due to Covid restrictions earlier that year.

After the return of the school, consultation was undertaken with the wider school community, and a pilot School Street was introduced on the three streets leading into the Scoil Iognáid in November 2020.

The street was closed from Monday to Friday, from 08.15am to 09.15am, and from 13.15pm to 14.45pm, from Monday 30th November 2020. The mechanism used to pedestrianise the street was Section 45 – (1) to (3) of SI No. 182/1997 – Road Traffic (Traffic and Parking) regulation 1997. Access and bicycles were permitted.

Infrastructural measures included the development of a ‘School Zone’ at the front of school, and provision of cycle and scooter parking. A pedestrian crossing was provided on a nearby street, to facilitate active travel by children and local residents.

The School Streets pilot was a challenging and daring initiative for the school, moving from a car-centric environment and school community, to one where all children were required to arrive on foot, by bike, or by scooter.

The project was inspired by School Streets projects around the world, including a pilot in Malahide County Dublin which began in late 2019. Initial results published by Fingal County Council showed a 43% shift from car travel to active modes – with positive feedback from parents, residents and the school.

Park and Stride

Both the school and Galway City Council understand that many children travel by car because they have no other alternative, whether it’s because of distance, lack of public transport, or travelling with siblings to different schools or crèche. While the school community was encouraged to walk, scoot, cycle and use public transport where they can, for those who need to drive to school, ‘Park and Stride’ was promoted as part of the School Streets pilot.

Park and Stride is where parents park a short distance away from the school, and finish the last leg of the journey on foot. As the school is in a busy city centre location, parents/ guardians were encouraged to park a couple of streets away. Galway City Council has a Park and Stride scheme, where parents and guardians can park for free in over 20 car parks in the city. Parents/ Guardians must register for the scheme, to receive a permit to park in these locations. See www.galwaycity.ie/parkandstride.

In the run up to the pilot launch, feedback from the school community indicated that parents were unhappy that they would have to use on-street Pay and Display parking, while dropping their children to school. To counteract that obstacle, Galway City Council extended the school Park and Stride scheme to include Pay and Display parking within 1km of the school, on a pilot basis. Parents and guardians registered for Park and Stride and were issued a pink Park and Stride permit to display in their windshield. All other terms and conditions applying to the Park and Stride scheme apply.


The pilot School Streets project was an iterative process, combining on-going communications, consultation and engagement; and infrastructure – delivering a `School Zone’ design – ultimately creating a safer, calmer, front of school environment. The pilot project has changed the travel culture and practices at Scoil Iognáid, producing positive outcomes and increasing active and sustainable travel on the school run.

Evaluation of the pilot programme found that daily car use has reduced by 14%, and more children are walking (+11%), scooting (+3%) and cycling (+7%) on a daily basis. Cycle parking was increased to 54 spaces, with 24 scooter parking spaces also provided. 85 children were recorded cycling to school on one count in June 2021.

Staff reported children arriving at school as more ready to learn, with an improved atmosphere and reduced stress at the school gate. Parents and the wider community report a better walking and cycling environment, improved access and community spirit.

The School Streets pilot at Scoil Iognáid created a space where children as young as four and five are scooting and cycling with their older classmates, as they arrive into school.

Galway City Council is now progressing ’Safe Routes to School’ and additional ‘School Zones’ measures as part of the national Safe Routes to School programme.

This project is funded by the National Transport Authority, and delivered with the support of the Green-Schools Travel programme, An Garda Siochána (Ireland’s national police force), and the wider school community.

Check out the Final Report, including more information on how the pilot was implemented, which is available at www.galwaycity.ie/schoolstreets

Do you have a story to share about this or any other topic? Write to us at info@lgiu.org or submit an idea using our easy online suggestion box.

Related LGIU content

Global Local: Weatherproofing Active Travel

Looking ahead: Eight ways local government can encourage active travel

The role of active travel in our recovery from Covid-19

Active Leadership for Active Transport


Scotland Communities and society, Welfare and equalities

Dad’s Survey 2022: The key takeaways for Councils


Fathers Network Scotland began as a seed project in 2008 and was soon spearheading the Scottish Government sponsored ‘Year of the Dad’ in 2016. It is now an established and well respected charity supporting thousands of professionals and families each year to improve children’s lives and outcomes through the positive involvement of dads, father-figures & whole families.

Each year the charity conducts a Dads survey, and in 2022 data was collected from 271 Scottish dads between 27 May – 30 June. At the time the final Covid-19 restrictions had been removed and the country was facing a deepening Cost of Living crisis. The Office of National Statistics recorded that 90% of those living with a dependent child aged 0 to 4 years felt very or somewhat worried about the rising cost of living. The survey aimed to uncover the real stories and human context behind this statistic.

The background

Fathers Network Scotland (FNS) has delivered a series of Dads Surveys to track the changes happening over the last 2 years to assess if the pandemic has fundamentally changed how family’s parent.

The initial survey, undertaken during Scotland’s first lockdown, corroborated the trends observed in a similar study undertaken by the Fatherhood Institute affirming the notion pandemic was a “something big” for fathers. The most significant finding was that dads’ increased time at home was accompanied by a step up in hands-on caring for their children. 56% of Dads told FNS the experience of living through the pandemic had changed how they would like to parent in the future. Dads expressed a reluctance to return to a pre-pandemic model of family life where they played a less active role in day-to-day childcare. Two years on and the most recent Dads’ Survey reveals that this sentiment remains largely unchanged. 54% said the pandemic had changed how they would like to parent in the future and of those 57% told us they wanted to spend more time with their family, and 34% wanted to ensure their work was family-friendly.

Responding to the publication of Dad’s Survey 2022, Gayle Gorman, Chief Executive of Education Scotland and His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, said:

“Education Scotland is delighted to work in partnership with Fathers Network Scotland and we welcome the publication of the Dad’s Survey 2022. Research shows us that supporting fathers to be meaningfully engaged in their child’s learning, in addition to their own learning, is vital to improve outcomes for children and families.”

Dad’s Survey 2022 summary 

Analysing the responses of 271 dads, FNS drew four main findings.

  1. Dads are struggling to balance work and family life. 60% of all working Dads told us they struggled to balance work and family life, selecting very difficult, difficult or can be tricky on our survey.
  2. Dads are continuing to prioritise spending time with their children. Despite many Dads struggling to balance work & family life, astonishingly the number spending 10 or more hours per week playing or supporting their children’s learning has increased by 13% since last November to 68%.
  3. Relationships between Dads & partners or co-parents continue to deteriorate. Almost a third (31%) of Dads told us that the relationship with their co-parent had been negatively affected.
  4. Dads want more flexible working to be with their family. Homeworking has made a significant difference to many. Of the Dads who found balancing work and family life ‘okay’ or’ very easy’ 25% mentioned the positive impact of homeworking.

Takeaways for Scottish Councils

There are over 400,000 Dads with dependent children in Scotland, and their well-being and level of positive involvement profoundly impact their children, their families and society as a whole.

As a service provider…

The above graph from Dads Survey 2022 demonstrates the core takeaway from the report: the pandemic has made a lasting impact in that Dads spending more time with their children.

This presents a key opportunity for local governments to provide engaged services to support Fathers in family learning during holidays.

A key route for local governments involves providing programmes to encourages Dads and family learnings during the holidays. Over the summer, FNS released a seven-week programme of activities to capitalise on Dad’s increased family involvement. The Scottish Government has also recognised the need for school holidays to entail parent focused programmes. In Summer 2022, the Scottish Government’s allocated an additional £10 million in funding to local governments for a holiday programme to co-ordinate access to activities, childcare and food for children age 5-14 from low-income families.

However, the route for local government’s does not always require additional service provision. There are currently 504 Scottish public libraries. With many managed by Scottish local governments, the Ambition & Opportunity: A Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland 2015-2020 showcased projects utilising public libraries such as Family Futures. This early intervention programme increased interaction between parents and children, developed and improved parenting and communication skills.

Accessing local government services…

The report also indicated opportunities for local governments to reach out to parents and capture the voices of parents following the recent shifts in family patterns. The report noted that Dads often don’t believe services value their input or make an effort to involve them. This can be particularly true of working Dads who frequently find it difficult to engage in person during normal ‘office hours’.

However, small changes can make a big difference. The report calls for service providers to consider how to involve Dads more. A starting place involves asking Mums, Dads and children for their opinions. To see case study evidence of how a local government can adapt their service provisions, make sure to check out the LGIU’s previous briefings where Fathers Net Scotland document Fife Council progress in father friendly services.

As an employer… 

Local Governments are significant employers in the Scottish economy. COSLA reports that Scottish local governments employ over 240,000 people, almost 10% of all jobs in Scotland. Recognising the role of local governments as employers present a crucial opportunity for local governments to reflect on findings from Dads Survey 2022 on their role as employers.

One key route for local governments to reflect on is their employees’ Work-Life balance. 60% of all those Dads told us they struggled to balance work & family life, with 28% discussing difficulties juggling competing demands of work, childcare & household chores. 46% told us about the negative impact of long hours, extra hours and travel on family life. Increasing financial pressure may be forcing more dads to work more.

A second consideration for local governments as employers concerns Dads paternity leave. Gendered state policies around Paternity and Maternity leave severely restrict parents’ choices, steering them into a traditional division of childcare during the infant’s first months. Fathers increasingly want to share the responsibilities of childcare. However, they are only entitled to a maximum of two weeks of statutory Paternity Leave, whereas mothers are entitled to 39 weeks of paid leave.

In summary, Dad’s Survey 2022 provides insightful takeaways for local governments to reflect upon their role in society as both a service provider and as an employer.

Click here to read the full report on Dads 2022 annual survey. 


Global Culture, sport and tourism

Say Boo-nicipal! Local government at Halloween


Halloween is my favourite holiday. It breaks my heart that my (not-so) little boy no longer wants to do stuff with me on Halloween, although he has requested I do his lizard-man makeup before he goes out with friends on Monday night. Still, working with local government lets me see all kinds of global Halloween fun. For instance, this week there’s a fabulous conversation between LGIU’s Thomas Lynch and the Head of Culture at Derry and Strabane Council’s Head of Culture on their work on cultural heritage and festivals to support a bright future as well as their claim that Derry is the Halloween capital of world (really worth a read, find it here).

So how else are local public services celebrating the most spooktacular holiday and making a truly ‘Boo-nicipal’ effort?


I love the Milwaukee Public Library’s take on Halloween and celebration of Stephen King’s books in this genuinely funny, but also a bit frightening video:


Charles County, in Maryland USA has released a podcast on The Ghosts of Charles County – highlighting freaky occurrences in the local area, but also how interest in paranormal activities can support tourism.

Maryland Association of Counties did indeed follow up with some spooky but fun facts about Maryland counties.

This looks genuinely scary! South Ayrshire Council’s museum (Scotland) has a decorative display for free!

Selby District Council’s (England) pumpkin trail is a great way for families to get moving across the area!

And they’re really cutthroat about their Halloween decorations in Sydney, Australia.


Staying safe on Halloween

I love the councils that are really getting into the spirt of things, but we want all the grim and gore to be just for fun. Sadly, it’s been said that more children are killed and injured by cars on Halloween than any other day.

Well done New York on closing streets to car traffic to make trick or treating safer!


And other councils are promoting safety, too!



Of course for some, Halloween isn’t such a fun time and night time visitor can be genuinely distressing, particularly for lone or vulnerable residents. Some councils are taking the approach of getting residents to print out signs asking for no trick or treaters.


However, I do hope that it isn’t being used by Halloween Scrooges, “Boo humbug,” they say.


It’s not just about safety, though that’s an important aspect – Halloween can be a good time to test out your city’s approach to urban planning and liveability, too:

Orange and black and green – the colours of Halloween

Local government is helping people stay environmentally conscious, too



However, you celebrate, I hope it’s green, safe and most of all happy! Let us know how your council is helping residents enjoy the holiday. Happy Halloween from me and LGIU.


Ireland Communities and society, Democracy, devolution and governance, Finance, Health and social care

All things Ireland: Warming up for Halloween


Welcome to All things Ireland

Welcome to All Things Ireland, the new weekly overview brought to you by the LGIU Ireland team. Our second edition updates you on the week at LGIU Ireland, followed by the most comprehensive weekly breakdown of All Things local government in Ireland.

From the LGIU Ireland team

The week in Irish Local Government


The much-covered Reform of Licensing Laws means 9 new pilot cities and towns have been selected by an independent review panel, led by the City and County Management Association (CCMA). The selected pilot locations are Dublin City, Cork City, Limerick City, Galway City, Kilkenny, Drogheda, Sligo, Buncrana and Longford Town.

Department of Rural and Community Development announced a 2023-2027 LEADER Programme to support thousands of locally-led rural development and enterprise projects over the next 5 years. With a total of €180 million available to support rural communities and enterprises, interested parties can now apply by visiting the department’s website and downloading an application form.

Government approval means two European Regional Development Fund programmes are set to deliver €853 million. The programmes are to be managed by the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA), Southern Regional Assembly (SRA) and the Eastern and Midlands Regional Assembly (EMRA).


Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage released the 2023 Local Property Tax (LPT) Allocations to Local Authorities. You can find the full breakdown here.

The Independent.ie provided a detailed breakdown of the number of Ukrainian refugees awaiting housing in local authority districts and provides detail on the difficulties of using vacant properties in remote areas. Read the full article here.

Homeless Report 2022. The Department’s official homelessness statistics are published on a monthly basis and refer to the number of homeless persons accommodated in emergency accommodation funded and overseen by housing authorities during a specific count week, typically the last full week of the month. Read the full breakdown here.


In transport developments, Dun Laoghaire Rathdown and Limerick are announced as the destinations for a new 9 month study into new cost-efficient Zebra crossings.


The Community Climate Action Programme saw 18 successful recipients benefit from the new €5 million fund. Selected from 72 applicants, you can find more information about the projects from the Pobal website.

Cork County unveiled its Reuse Republic event. The first to be held since the pandemic, this year’s event took place at IRD Duhallow and brought together national and local reuse initiatives to exhibit their services and showcase how individuals and communities can take action to reduce their consumption and positively impact climate. Cork County Chief Executive Tim Lacey commented, “We welcome the return of our popular Reuse Republic event, which will showcase some inspiring examples of initiatives in Cork County that are leading the way in the move to a circular economy.” Find more out here.

Further developments were made on prioritising a Circular Economy. Government policy is moving towards achieving a ‘circular economy’, where resources are re-used or recycled as much as possible, and the generation of waste is minimised. Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications announced a call for applications for the 2022 funding round of the Circular Economy Innovation Grant Scheme (CEIGS). This €650,000 grant scheme supports innovation and circular economy projects by social enterprises, voluntary and community organisations, and businesses with fewer than 50 employees.

Northern Ireland

Deadline day in Northern Ireland. At 12pm, the Assembly meets one last time in an attempt to re-start devolution. At 12am, Executive Ministers will leave office and civil servants take over departmental runnings. At 12:01am, the NI Secretary of State pledges to call a Winter election. Read about how local governments in NI navigate deadlock at Stormont here.

Welcoming the upcoming All Island Rail Review, the Department of Infrastructure is exploring the feasibility of new rail routes between Derry and Portadown, re-opening the line to Belfast International Airport, electrifying the Belfast to Newry line and increased connections to Belfast City Airport.

Greater collaboration over Active Travel and Greenways will see local government involvement in a new cross-departmental working group. Whilst a delivery model remains in the works, SusTrans and Council’s received praise for progress on Active Travel.

Conferences and Culture

Cork City hosted the fourth Public Service Innovation Conference 2022. With the theme of this years conference Championing Innovation and Transformation in the Public Service, click here to find out more about what Cork City Council’s Chief Executive Ann Doherty said about user-centred services.

Dublin City Council is working with the new Baile Átha Cliath (BÁC) le Gaeilge project. With €325,000 of funding from the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, the main goal of BÁC le Gaeilge is to promote and strengthen the language in Dublin, among the business community and in the community as a whole. Click here to find out more.

Housing Agency’s Annual Conference for 2022 is announced for the 26th November in Trinity College Dublin. A hybrid event, over half-a-day the conference will explore the sustainability of Ireland’s housing finance models, sustainable communities and environmental sustainability. To register click here.

Three Ordinary Members were appointed to the Charities Regulator which was established in 2014 to register and regulate all of Ireland’s charities, with the mandate to promote good governance practice.

Supported by Cork City and County Council, the Pride in Our Community Awards 2022 celebrated the efforts of groups in Cork city and county that work to develop and maintain community based amenities or projects, to raise awareness of their local environment, to work to eliminate litter in their areas and to conserve and enhance habitats in their area to support local biodiversity.

On a lighter note…

Congratulations are in order following the SuperValu TidyTowns awards ceremony at the RDS in Dublin. The big winners this year are…

  • Rosscarbery, Co. Cork (Ros Ó gCairbe, Co Corcaigh) awarded Ireland’s Tidiest Village.
  • Clonakilty, Co Cork (Cloch Na Coillte, Co Corcaigh) awarded Ireland’s Tidiest Small Town.
  • Trim, Co Meath (Baile Átha Troim, Co Mí) awarded Ireland’s Tidiest Large Town.

Accompany this, the Department of Rural and Community Development announced €1.4 million announced in grant aid for over 930 SuperValu TidyTowns groups nationwide.

Coming up…

Looking into next week, the LGIU is bringing you the latest housing update as well as content from Galway City Council on their Active Travel projects.

Sign up today and stay connected with local government policy briefings, news, leading-edge research, training and more. 


Scotland Communities and society, Democracy, devolution and governance, Finance, Health and social care

All things Scotland: Welcome to November


Welcome to All things Scotland

Welcome to November at LGIU. Next month’s content will include our regular updates on key policy, consultations and legislation from Westminster and Holyrood as they affect public services in Scotland. In addition, we continue to look at how the energy crisis is affecting everyone in 2022 and what the impact will be in 2023.

November is COP27 in Egypt and LGIU will bring you all our relevant briefing in a jam packed Global Local edition one year one from Cop 26. Finally, finances we are covering all the budget issues as they affect you in preparation for Scottish Government budget publication.

Reports and updates

This week, Improvement Service released a a new paper on Delivering a future for Scottish local authorities: the challenges they face, the questions that need asking and a model for the future. This comprehensive paper proposes a new approach for the future operating model of Scottish local authorities and covers the context, challenges, opportunities and the journey for how  local authorities might transition to a model of service delivery that supports effective partnership to deliver the outcomes needed in communities.

Supporting collaboration between the third and public sectors: evidence review. This report presents findings of research conducted by Scottish Government researchers to better understand current barriers to effective collaboration between third sector organisations and the public sector – particularly focusing on relationships between the third sector, local government and national government.

Active Healthy Kids Scotland released their fourth Global Matrix. Comparative analysis with 56 other countries graded organised sports and physical activity for Scottish kids a B- against the global average of D-. Real the full international context here.

Scottish Government provides £3 million funding to extend the reach of Gaelic across Scotland. The Gaelic Capital Fund 2022-2023 provides funding to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Glasgow City Council,  Highland Council and Renfrewshire Council. You can find Highland Council’s response here.

A new national public energy agency was launched this week to accelerate the delivery of climate-friendly heating and improve energy efficiency across Scotland’s homes and buildings. Working collaboratively across the public and private sector, COSLA is seated on the new agencies Strategic Board. Read more here.


This week in Holyrood

On Tuesday, the National Care Service Plan faced intense scrutiny from the Scottish Government’s own MSP’s. The main contentions concerned the risk of the £644m and £1.3bn financial memorandum. Read the Official Report here.

On Wednesday, we saw a report tracking the work of the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee from 2021-2022. Providing an in-depth recap of the Committee recent work, the reflective analysis of this report provides a baseline for all future reports. Find out more here.

On a lighter note…

The Scottish Highlands has been named as one of National Geographic’s ‘Best of the World’ destinations for 2023. The travel list, which is created, researched, reported and written in collaboration with National Geographic Traveler’s international editorials teams, celebrates Scotland’s rewilding efforts, which aim to restore the original landscape of the Highlands by replanting and restoring native species.

Responding to the Highland’s newest claim to fame, Highland Council Leader Cllr Raymond Bremner remarked,

“What is really pleasing is to receive recognition from National Geographic for the efforts in restoring the Highlands’ ecosystems through projects like Affric Highland in the rewilding of 500,000 acres, re-introducing native species, improving biodiversity being carried out in areas like the Alladale Wilderness Reserve, and in the rewilding planned to improve biodiversity across 500,000 acres as part of the Affric Highland Project.”

Coming up…

Stay tuned to LGIU Scotland as we kick start with regular updates on key policy, consultations and legislation from Westminster and Holyrood and how they affect public services in Scotland. In addition, we continue to look at how the energy crisis is affecting everyone in 2022 and what the impact will be in 2023.

Sign up today and stay connected with local government policy briefings, news, leading-edge research, training and more. 


England & Wales, Global Culture, sport and tourism

Museums as community assets


In August, the International Council of Museums (ICOM), posed the question ‘What is a museum?’ at its annual conference in Prague. Out of this question, a new definition of museums was born, describing them as “a not-for-profit, permanent institution in the service of society that researches, collects, conserves, interprets and exhibits tangible and intangible heritage.” But that is not all.

It is the final two sentences that take big step forward from previous definitions, offering a more inviting and approachable dynamic for the museums of the 21st century: “Open to the public, accessible and inclusive, museums foster diversity and sustainability. They operate and communicate ethically, professionally and with the participation of communities, offering varied experiences for education, enjoyment, reflection and knowledge sharing.”

The sentiment however is probably the same as it ever has been, but the language has evolved. Museums have always been a space of civic pride, for learning and enjoyment, for inspiration and creativity. The difference is these days museums, like many cultural, charitable and public institutions, must prove it.

There have been movements a step ahead of this definition, that have also taken a step to examine impact. In 2013, the UK’s Museums Associations launched its ongoing Museums Change Lives campaign, spearheaded by a certainty in the power of museums to improve people’s lives, enhancing health and wellbeing, inspiring reflection and debate, and creating better places to live and work. Its vision has since been translated into Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic and has encouraged museums around the world to harness their social impact.

Impact doesn’t have to be big.  Bryony Robins writing for cultural leadership body Clore in a provocation paper, challenged the cultural establishment not to ignore the work of smaller museums and instead learn from them. She highlighted that these museums, were quite often the only place of cultural activity within their locations, often sharing their space with other parts of the local community e.g. for yoga or art classes. As such, these museums potentially form people’s first route into culture, acting as a seamless bridge across the community and playing a vital role in establishing wider audiences for arts and heritage.

This in turn can translate into meeting many objectives of council plans.  In an ICOM and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) collaboration they say it is important, when evaluating the local development impact of a museum, to do it in conjunction with the agenda and goals of local government. “When those agendas are aligned, it is easier to mobilise local resources (regulatory, financial, land and human resources) to enable the museum to realise its local development potential.”

But what is impact without community? Museums are as much an asset to their communities, as the communities are to the museums.  Through connection and collaboration with communities through exhibitions, digital space and events, to being inclusive to all visitors and representative of their community in their governance, staffing and volunteers – maximising community involvement and relevance, must be a paramount driver to achieve impact.

One could argue therefore that museums are needed more than ever – in an unsettled world, post-pandemic world grappling with a cost-of-living crisis and climate change. The Washington Post, suggest the new ICOM definition is aspirational than prescriptive, at a “fraught time for museums”. Expectations of what museums can deliver, are done so in a reality of conflicting pressures – delivering and demonstrating community impact, but facing reduced funding; being identified as community warm spaces, but unable to pay their own energy bills; being there for all but lacking employee diversity.

However, Rebecca Carlsson, writing for MuseumNext, suggest that while museums cannot solve these issues, they can contribute to our collective and wider understanding of our local communities and societies, helping to respond and shape how we see the future. Their power, she argues lies in their ability to bring communities together to learn from the past and educate future generations.

Professor Karen Brown, University of St Andrews, goes further suggesting that community resilience is an urgent necessity “in the face of global imbalances and rapid change”. She puts forward that museums and heritage organisations bear a huge responsibility for the communities they serve – with museums among the most trusted public institutions around the globe, “they therefore have an ethical obligation to support social cohesion and development… because community-based museums linked into their distinctive natural environments are among the most community-engaged, wellbeing-oriented catalysts for building social sustainability and resilience.”

The argument therefore seems compelling that museums, along with other cultural services, are part of the glorious fabric of our communities. The ICOM definition is a helpful step-forward in strengthening the message about the significance of museums, as a part of our communities and societies. And in these times of disquiet, we can look to museums with optimism and as beacons of unity, inspiration and hope, as the case studies that follow show.

This week the Global Local Bulletin looks at the role of museums in building a sense of place locally and developing skills and knowledge for the future.


Ireland Communities and society, Democracy, devolution and governance, Finance, Health and social care

All things Ireland: The first edition


Welcome to All things Ireland

Welcome to All Things Ireland, a new weekly overview brought to you by the LGIU Ireland team. This first edition focuses on what the LGIU Ireland team has been up to as well as a tailored local government focus on reports and updates from across Ireland.

From the LGIU Ireland team

Whilst the rest of the LGIU team set off to Bath for the LGIU’s 13th year of Councillor awards in England and Wales, the LGIU Ireland team has three new briefings for local governments.

  • Reform of Ireland’s Planning Appeals Board. This briefing examines the background to the Action Plan and outlines the major reforms which have been approved by the Government and announced by the Minister.
  • Mixed-methods area profiling and reflections urban regeneration. This briefing paper recounts experiences of compiling a socio-economic profile of neighbourhoods that were included in an area-based urban-regeneration initiative in Tralee, County Kerry. It was commissioned by the local development company and involved a mixed-methods approach.
  • Levels of satisfaction and attitudes towards local authorities. This is the latest briefing in our series dealing with the National Oversight and Audit Commission (NOAC) reports. We examine this most recent effort to appraise both attitudes towards local authorities and the level of services being provided by Ireland’s 31 local authorities.

Reports and updates

Fingal County Council has been given the go ahead for a €10 million transformation of the Balbriggan town centre to deliver a unique public civic space in the heart of Ireland’s youngest town. This is the first and largest signature project to be brought forward under the Fingal County Council’s Our Balbriggan 2019-2025 Rejuvenation Plan. Find out more here.

The Simon Communities Ireland Locked Out report for September 2022 showed only 392 properties were available for rental, with September also seeing the lowest number of HAP properties ever recorded in the Locked Out of the Market reports. Read more from the Simon Communities here.

Pivotal’s newest briefing paper provides information about how Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government is working and that will change in the coming weeks. Find out more about what happens after NI’s October deadline here.

The week in Merrion Street…

  • On October 14th, Cork provided the forum for the Minister for Foreign Affairs attendance at the Ireland-Wales Forum in Cork. The event brings together Irish and Welsh ministers to exchange views and learning on key issues from trade, economic cooperation to renewable energy. In addition to the Ministerial Forum, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Deirdre Forde, welcomed the Welsh First Minister and his delegation to City Hall.
  • Following the Minister for Transport’s call to local authorities over the summer to submit their most innovative approaches to transport, the Department of Transport’s Pathfinder Programme announces 35 exemplar transport projects to be delivered by local authorities in 19 counties and 5 cities. Click here to find the full list of project summaries.
  • Following statements from the Chief Executives of Dublin City Council and Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council last week, this week we saw Chief Executives from Cork City Council and Galway City Council discuss Implementing Housing For All at the Joint Committee on Housing, Local Government and Heritage.
  • The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine published a report exploring the need for increased pan-European collaboration on peatlands restoration, conservation and sustainable management. The report summarises the findings of an exploratory study to discover how a European network could help overcome action and policy barriers for peatlands. You can find the full report here.
  • In housing, the Residential Tenancies (Deferment of Termination Dates of Certain Tenancies) Bill 2022 will defer no fault tenancy terminations that are due to occur during the coming winter months from taking effect until after 31 March 2023.
  • Minister for Justice Helen McEntee announced the allocation of grants totalling €2 million to successful applicants from the Community Safety Innovation Fund. 22 community projects across the country are set to benefit from grants ranging from €5,000 to €150,000, which will support the delivery of innovative projects to improve community safety in their local areas.
  • In planning, the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage has commenced Section 22 of the Planning and Development, Maritime and Valuation (Amendment) Act 2022, which amends the judicial review provisions in Sections 50A of the Planning and Development Act 2000.
  • In Offaly, Minister Peter Burke launched a new initiative in Offaly County Council, aimed at increasing the number of women involved in local politics in Offaly which currently stands at 19.
  • Finally, looking forward to next week keep your eyes peeled for the Heritage Ireland conference. A free event, and open to all, the Heritage Ireland 2030 conference is set for Monday (24th October) at Trinity College. Heritage Ireland 2030 is Ireland’s national plan for the protection of our heritage. Find out more about this event here.

On a lighter note…

Crowned the “Halloween Capital of the World”, check out what Derry and Strabane Council have planned for 2022’s halloween weekend. To find out more about Halloween Celebrations in Derry, read this short piece from Tourism Ireland on the Irish origins of the Samhain festival and check in next week where the LGIU hears from Derry and Strabane Council.

Coming up…

Next week briefings from the LGIU Ireland will focus on COP-27 and we will hear from Derry and Strabane Council how they came to be the “Halloween capital of the world”.

Sign up today and stay connected with local government policy briefings, news, leading-edge research, training and more. 


Scotland Communities and society, Democracy, devolution and governance, Finance, Health and social care

All things Scotland: Steering into November


Welcome to All things Scotland

As the rest of the LGIU team geared up for England & Wales 13th year of Councillor awards in Bath, this week the LGIU Scotland team brings you a range of briefings and reports to keep the local government and public sector as up to date as possible in these ever changing times.

On Monday, we saw the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Spearheaded by the United Nations, this year saw the 30th anniversary for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, with the theme centring on Dignity for All in Practice. To understanding how local government’s can tackle poverty in Scotland, make sure to check out these two LGIU Scotland briefings on child and fuel poverty.

Scottish leaders forum 2022 

Last week, we saw the first in-person Scottish leaders forum since 2019. Over 120 members gathered for the 2022 Scottish Leaders forum (SLF) in Tulliallan, a collaborative forum where Scotland’s senior leaders come together to discuss individual and collective action in pursuit of Scotland’s national purpose.

You can find an overview of the highlights and programme here.

Reports and updates

This week, Sustrans Scotland released a report providing insight on the extent to which the Scottish government’s active travel programme, Spaces for People achieved its overall aims. With 30 local authorities involved, this report evaluated the 1300 projects we saw over the last two years. Read more here.

The Scottish Association for Mental Health’s Still Forgotten report showed how two years into the pandemic, the majority of mental health support in Scotland is still being carried out remotely. The final of three reports considering the long-term impact of Covid on people with existing mental problems, make sure to read the full report here.

From Creative Carbon Scotland we saw a new report exploring the roles of arts and culture around COP26. The report explores why COP’s provide a special context for arts and culture to work in, provides detailed case studies of some representative projects, and offers tips and advice. Read the full report here.

Finally, this week we saw the Scottish Government provide the latest statistical release on Scotland-level data and information on people displaced by the war in Ukraine arriving through Sponsor Schemes. At LGIU Scotland we would like to congratulate the stellar work of all the Scottish local authorities involved in the Ukraine Sponsorship Scheme.

From the LGIU

Whilst the Scottish Parliament remains in recess, the LGIU has been busy preparing a bundle of briefings to keep Scottish local government up to today for its return on October 24th.

On a lighter note…

This week Argyll and Bute celebrated Dunoon Grammar being named the World’s Best School for community collaboration. With Academy Award winning actress Emma Thompson and actor and producer Greg Wise congratulating Dunoon Grammar School in Scotland, you can read more about Dunoon’s success from Argyll and Bute Council.

Coming up…

Keep your eyes peeled next week for the LGIU Global Local Newsletter which covers ‘Local Government – addressing the knowing doing gap…COP 26 one year on. Also for next week, we have the most up to date Holyrood round-up and you can also find out more on how Council’s are responding to the Cost of Living crisis, the key focus as we head into winter.

Sign up today and stay connected with local government policy briefings, news, leading-edge research, training and more. 


Ireland Brexit, Communities and society, Democracy, devolution and governance

How local government navigates political deadlock: A look at Belfast City Council


This blog looks at the importance of local governance in Northern Ireland (NI). Since the revival of NI’s devolution in 1999, Pivotal calculates that the power-sharing Executive has not been functioning for more than 40% of that time. 

With the majority of attention focused on the October 28th deadline for Stormont’s “caretaker” Executive to return, this blog focuses on how Belfast City Council operates during the current deadlock at Stormont.

Remarking upon NI’s local governance at the start of the Peace Process, Colin Knox (1998) identifies three roles for local government; an executive, a representative, and a consultation. Understanding NI’s local government in this manner provides a guiding framework for this blog to expand upon three key areas where local government overcomes deadlock at Stormont. 

The context of local governance in Northern Ireland 

Mirroring the tumultuous history of NI, the structure of local government has fluctuated in its 101 year history. With the number of council administrations jumping from 6, to 26, and then to the current structure of 11, the powers council’s exercise has similarly wavered. Following the partition of the island of Ireland in 1920, local governance in NI was plagued by systemic patterns of discrimination in housing, elections and jobs. With local governance discrimination forming the bedrock for the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement demands, the unrest of NI in the 1970’s saw councils lose many responsibilities. For example, the 1971 Housing Executive Act transferred the housing responsibilities of local authorities to a new agency, the Housing Executive, which remains to this day, remains as an independent organisation with a single comprehensive regional housing authority.

Following the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and the 2015 local government reforms, NI currently has 11 councils responsible for local planning, waste collection, parks and leisure, economic development and arts, heritage and cultural facilities. 

1- Executive: Political leadership during deadlock. 

In the policy vacuum left by the current caretaker Executive, leadership in NI’s 11 councils is providing the space for innovative cross-border policy advances. Thanks in part to Brexit, NI’s Minister’s have been unable to embark on new policy initiatives since February 2022, so local authorities such as Belfast City Council are now leading the way in securing policy initiatives and funding in areas such as; 

  • While £400 million of NI’s public spending cannot be allocated by an Executive, the Belfast Region City Deal secured an investment package of £850 million from the UK Government.
  • Political leadership in local authorities mean 9 councils in NI benefit from Irish government funding on collaborative cross-border projects and Belfast City Council has accessed £14 million in PEACE funding since 2018 to fund projects and events promoting cross-community relations. 
  • Collaborative working with Cork City Council on sustainable dockland regeneration.
  • The Dublin-Belfast Economic Corridor involving 8 councils has seen successes in transport infrastructure, peace-building and employment opportunities. 
  • The All of Ireland Smart Cities Forum provides the space through which City Authorities across the Island cooperate on Smart Initiatives.

2- Representative: Opportunities for cross-community relations

Functioning only 40% of the time since 1999, LucidTalk polling data for 2022 illustrates widespread public dissatisfaction with NI’s power-sharing Executive. However, whilst Stormont’s stop-start governance staggers on, councils act as important forums for reconciliation. 

Sidetracking the tribal “us versus them” politics which defines deadlock at Stormont, council Leaders can use their role to make inroads with other communities. 2002 provides a powerful example of the local government’s potential for reconciliation. The mixed composition of many council wards means those whose party may refuse to sit in the same room at Stormont are often happy to work together on local issues. A powerful example of this is the electoral ward of Lisnasharragh, where East Belfast’s first Nationalist Councillor and representatives from the DUP, Alliance and the Green Party find common ground to work together for the entire ward. 

3- Consultative- Council views on centrally planned services

Knox (1998) outlines a consultative role where councils’ views are sought on centrally provided services such as planning, roads, water and housing. A power granted to councils in 2015, Community Planning aims to improve the connection between all the tiers of government and wider society through partnership working to jointly deliver better outcomes for everyone. 

A compelling example of this work is Belfast’s City Council’s approach to Community Planning. With input from the city’s residents, the Belfast Agenda adapted to the Covid-19 pandemic and has created the conditions where job creation and neighbourhood regeneration is flourishing, demonstrating the importance of local service delivery.

Looking ahead

This blog does not pretend that local governance is the panacea for NI’s multitude of issues. 

Instead, this blog provides a timely reminder that whilst Stormont remains in deadlock, Local Authorities in Northern Ireland continue to provide local solutions for local issues. Looking ahead to the 28th October, the deadline for Stormont to return or face elections, the greatest challenge facing NI’s councils remains that of funding. Entitled to only 4% of the public funding available in NI, the Northern Ireland Local Governance Association stresses that councils are already committed to supporting communities, irrespective of their limited statutory role and finances. Therefore, properly funded and empowered, local governance in NI can provide a crucial forum for citizens to shape the place where they live and work.