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Our Global Local bulletin highlights local solutions to global challenges, with a different theme each week offering critical insights, policy suggestions and case studies. We love hearing what our subscribers are up to, and the successes and challenges they’ve experienced in policy or projects.

As such, we’re looking for your insights on our upcoming editions. If you can tell us about these topics, please get in touch and we can help you craft an effective case study.

Air quality

Nearly all of us experience polluted air, and air quality is closely linked to the earth’s climate and ecosystems. Policies to address air pollution, then, offer a win-win for the environment and our physical and mental health. We want to know the regulations and policy directions you’ve taken to improve air quality, from more active transport and green spaces to messaging residents on air pollution levels.

Nordic spotlight

Scandinavia is a hub for innovative local government policy, and this edition will present some of our favourite recent examples of general municipal best practice across the Nordic nations. If you are in, have knowledge of, or have connections to Nordic local government, then we want to hear from you. Specifically, we are looking for examples of forward thinking infrastructure and planning policy, alongside new ideas in transport and sustainable development.

Technology and social care:

A relatively young issue, we are looking for new perspectives on the benefits, challenges and risks posed by rapidly integrating new digital technologies in health care provision to local authorities. Are you preparing for how technology will change health and social care? Are you trialling any new digital infrastructure that could help meet your care needs?

Young people and democracy:

Young people’s participation and attitudes towards democracy is worrying for all levels of government. We’re looking for local governments making a good effort to reach out to young people and engage them in democratic processes. We want to know how if you’ve set out to address our more polarised and narrower social networks, declining social interaction, or even the increased disillusionment with democracy some young people experience.

International women’s day:

This edition is focused on the the crucial role women play in our local governments. We would love to hear from women in local government on your experiences – both good and bad – in council leadership and representing your communities. We want to know how if your council is working to help the next generation of female local government participation and leadership. In addition, we want to know how your local government is helping to improve the lives of the women who live, work and visit your local area? We’re after case studies on how you’re making your spaces and assets more gender-equal.

Risk management and extreme events

How has your risk management approach changed in the light of Covid, the war in Ukraine and the rising frequency of extreme weather events. The unfathomable has become the unpredictable has become the situation we need to build resilience for. How are you working with communities to understand and mitigate extreme risk?

Maternity and infant care and family support

How we start life can have a big impact on how we lead life. How are you working with partners to support families and children in their first weeks and months? And what difference is it making to outcomes in your area?

Your experiences welcome!

We’re always eager to hear from our local government colleagues on anything you’re doing or ideas you’d like us to cover. Let us know!

If you have a story to share, please get in touch. You can submit content through our online suggestion box or get in touch directly by emailing ingrid.koehler@lgiu.org  Perhaps you already have something written up or maybe you’d like help constructing a case study? Either way we’d love to hear from you.



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Global Communities and society, Welfare and equalities

Community wealth building – does it exist in Finnish?

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This headline might seem misspelt, but it is not. While researching for the ‘Finland: an individualistic welfare state public sector reform and community wealth building‘ briefing, I came across an interesting issue. No matter what word combinations or phrases I used, it seemed that on the surface, there was no translation for Community Wealth Building (CWB) in Finnish.

But looking deeper, I started to find more and more content that shared the core principles of community wealth building surfacing in Finnish conversations. All of these areas; plural ownership, localised financial power, progressive procurement and fair and just use of land, are currently in flux.

It is a fact that the two societies, British and Finnish, experience socio-economic differences in different ways. Whereas the UK is the fifth most unequal country in the world, Finland sits in the fourth spot for the most equal country in the world, right after its neighbouring Nordic countries. With this in mind, it is evident that concepts such as CWB have a different amount of emphasis in the local political sphere in Finland than it does in the UK but issues that CWB address exist in Finland, as well.

Throughout Covid-19 and even more recently during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Finland, like many nations, has started to draw more attention to being self-resilient, focusing on building strong supply chains and an economy that is not tied to global superpowers. This has historically also been important when building a modern Finland that is not ruled by its neighbours but rather stands on its own. I think this is engrained in the Finnish culture, the ability of one to be able to stand on their own. There is even a famous Finnish word, “sisu”, that the BBC has helpfully translated as “strength, perseverance in a task that for some may seem crazy to undertake, almost hopeless”. Building a more equal society can feel like that kind of task.

As a young person, I didn’t give that much thought to the economy, apart from being aware that it’s obvious that the rich get richer and if we want to have a democratic, equal society, we need change. When I talked with Hanna Muukka from Pellervo, one of Finland’s largest cooperative lobbying organisations, I was disappointed to hear about the way co-operatives as a business model are not appealing anymore, especially for young entrepreneurs.

Today, the Finnish co-ops are mostly associated with supermarkets, and more historically, with agriculture and its products such as dairy and meat. In the background, there is a legislative reason for this change; previously, to set up a business (ltd) in Finland, you were required to have a start-up capital of at least 2,500€. This requirement was removed in 2019 to ease the burden of setting up new businesses, especially for smaller businesses and self-employed people. Previously a co-operative would’ve been an appealing option if you didn’t have the capital to set up a business now that obstacle has been removed. But here, the authorities have to step in. This isn’t a negative thing, necessarily. By empowering small businesses, the community economy can get stronger and more versatile.

My briefing will include examples from smaller, more rural towns and that is something that is close to my own heart, having grown up in the scarcely inhabited countryside of Finland where it’s not only the wealth that is escaping the community, but also talent. Urbanisation increases in Finland all the time, with 72% of the population living in cities in 2020. Much like co-ops, rural towns have little to offer for young people, but increasingly they also fail to provide basic services for anyone else, either.

And this is where I want to introduce you to another special Finnish word that came to my mind time after time when thinking about community wealth building, specifically how locals can come together to keep their community thriving: “talkoot”. This word has no direct translation, either, but it has been translated to “work party” by some. In essence, it means doing work together, voluntarily to help one’s own community in some way. Usually, in the countryside, this would be, for example, piling up processed timber, or neighbours getting together to help with the harvest. In the urban environment, housing blocks organise “talkoot” to clean up the communal areas and gardens.

In essence “talkoot” might help to achieve a better community, whether it is by making it cleaner, or simply coming together in tasks that would be too laborious for one household to manage alone. And that’s what I started to think of CWB, as well. For it to work and be implemented, many actors have to come together within the community, to make a better, more equal place. It could be easier, and cheaper, to simply get an external provider to do the job, for example, to set up a new sports centre for a town, but it can also be done by the locals, for the locals.

I know that “talkoot” is not quite the same as the economic model of community wealth building and perhaps I have just made the definition of it even more complicated. Yet it prompted me to think about the power words and translations have. The word “economy” itself “can be traced to Greek word oikonomia, which in turn is composed of two words: oikos, which is usually translated as “household”; and nemein, which is best translated as “management and dispensation” (source).

Overall, the economy is a social construction and with that comes the idea that every society probably sees it in a different way and that community, whether it’s a household or a town, has been in the heart of the economy since ancient times. Perhaps we’ve kept moving away from that with the introduction of capitalism, but that doesn’t mean we cannot embrace the idea that we can achieve much more when we all embrace a little more “talkoot” spirit and work together.



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England & Wales, Scotland Communities and society, Welfare and equalities

In Conversation with Ian Millen of Veterans Outreach Support

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Veterans Outreach Support is a UK-based charity that since 2008 has provided welfare, wellbeing and mental health support to veterans and their families. Ian Millen, CEO at Veterans Outreach Support, chatted to Freya Millard from LGIU about the key challenges facing veterans re-entering society, the support needed for the families of ex-service personnel, and how local government can best support veterans during the initial re-integration period and throughout their lives.

Read our Global Local Bulletin on local government and support for veterans – open to LGIU members and Global Local subscribers.

How did you get involved with Veterans Outreach Support in the first place? 

I joined Veterans Outreach Support (VOS) as the CEO in 2018 following a 30-year career in the Royal Navy followed by another 10 years in public service and the private sector. I am a veteran of the Falklands War, and I was initially attracted to the role at VOS because of its origins, being initially set up by veterans of that conflict. As someone who benefited greatly from my own service, and transitioned well into civilian life, I wanted to help those who were not so lucky.

 

If you’re comfortable answering, can you tell us a bit about your personal experience leaving the military and reintegrating back into your community? For example, what assistance did you find beneficial or what aspects do you think could have been improved?

I’m very fortunate to have transitioned into civilian life fairly painlessly. After leaving the Royal Navy, I continued in public service for the first few years, which was a reasonably smooth transition. Working in law enforcement, the working environment and the ethos of my work colleagues was similar to that in the services. Moving into the private sector after a few years required me to learn new skills and do things differently. Whilst this transition went ok for me, it was a very different world to public service, and I can understand why some veterans struggle to adjust to a world that is very different to the one they are used to in the armed forces.

The armed forces do a fantastic job of turning civilians into soldiers, sailors, and airmen, educating, and shaping young people well to serve their country. There are resettlement schemes and support available on leaving, but I’m afraid that the same effort does not go into preparing those who leave the service early, and some young people face re-integration into an unfamiliar society. If you have never had to worry about housing, paying bills, finding a doctor and dentist and looking for a job, these things can be daunting. I’m happy to say that some charities are putting an effort into making this transition easier for early service leavers, helping them to take their place back in our communities.

 

From your experience at Veterans Outreach Support, what would you say are some of the key challenges facing veterans upon leaving the service?

Challenges for veterans vary greatly, as do the circumstances of leaving the armed services. At one end of the spectrum, if you have served a good number of years and have a family and stable home, you are far less likely to face the challenges that a young early service leaver, who joined the forces at 16 and left a few years later might have. For many, the fundamental challenge on leaving the service is one of adjustment. In the armed forces, you live alongside your peers and develop very strong bonds that come from shared experience, and sometimes danger, so it’s understandable that you miss that close camaraderie on integrating back into civilian society. Some service leavers find life outside of the armed forces to be an unfamiliar place, but it’s important to note that this is by no means all service leavers. The vast majority will transition well into civilian society with a great work ethic and many transferable skills that can serve them and their employers well.

 

What do you think are the best ways local government and their community partners can support veterans during this initial reintegration period? 

By investing in support and services to help people transition into civilian life by recognising the challenges of what can be a significant change in life. This starts with understanding veterans. Our own local council has an Armed Forces Champion, someone who is a focal point within local government and can help others to understand veterans. Signing up to the Armed Forces Covenant is another way that local government can help. Many businesses also take this step and actively seek to hire veterans. I would like to give a shout-out to the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme (ERS), which encourages employers to support defence and inspire others to do the same. The scheme encompasses bronze, silver, and gold awards for employer organisations that pledge, demonstrate or advocate support to defence and the armed forces community and align their values with the Armed Forces Covenant. Our city council in Portsmouth has an ERS Gold Award and is a great supporter of the armed forces community and our veterans, working closely with charities like ours and other local councils for the benefit of veterans. If I have one piece of advice for local government, it would be that the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme is a great place to start.

 

What would you say are some of the big challenges facing veterans later in life? 

The first thing to note is that veterans are citizens, just like everyone else, so the challenges that they face are mirrored by many in our communities. That said, it is fair to say that life in the armed forces can expose some of those serving to things that they might ordinarily experience in a civilian occupation. The greatest challenges are, once again, related to adjustment to new circumstances. Retirement, divorce, bereavement, poor or declining health are problems that all members of society encounter and veterans are no different. That said, some of the more serious aspects of poor mental health can present themselves in a veteran’s later life, including PTSD which can have a particularly long incubation period. Whatever the challenges, we and other charities, along with the statutory services are here to help our veterans.

 

Again, how do you think local government and their community partners can best support and assist veterans during these challenging times throughout their lives? 

Local government has a big part to play in supporting veterans in our communities, not least by partnering with local charities and statutory services to ensure that support is both available and joined up, ensuring that the picture of need and the understanding of resources to meet it are clear. At Veterans Outreach Support we have strong links with our local city council, working closely in alignment with the UK’s Armed Forces Covenant. The key to providing support to our veterans lies in this close collaboration, based on understanding. Our veterans are citizens, and the balance sheet shows that they are a positive asset in our communities, for the most part contributing more than what they take, but we need to be there for them when they need a little help.

 

What type of support do you find that the families of veterans usually need? And do you think there is a role for local government in helping provide that? 

Families in general, armed forces or not, deserve the very best support we can give, but the families of veterans often need extra support, not least as they have probably lived service housing and moved around a lot. On leaving the service, this support is no longer available, and they need to either get onto the property ladder or join the queue for housing with everyone else. I personally think that housing is one of the biggest challenges for the families leaving the armed forces. Not far behind is probably schooling for children who have also moved around a lot and had Mum or Dad spend lots of time away from them, deployed on operations. There are some excellent charities, such as the Naval Families Federation, but I urge local government to put plenty of effort into understanding how difficult it can be for families moving away from service life into our communities. Those that need help deserve all that local government can do to assist them.

 

Lastly, what can the wider community do to help veterans integrate after leaving the service? And do you think local government can be used to facilitate this?

As I said earlier, veterans are citizens, so having them welcomed when they join our communities is very important. They won’t expect any special treatment but will benefit from having people around them who recognise the challenges of transition. Local government can play its part in providing support and services for the whole community and, where appropriate, educating and encouraging others to provide a warm welcome to our service families. My final response to your last question is to remind all your readers of the Armed Forces Covenant and the Defence Employers Recognition Scheme. It’s a great place to start the process of understanding our veterans and their families and the first step in serving those who have served our nation – not just the veterans, but the families without whose support our armed forces would be far less effective.



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Australia Climate action and sustainable development, Finance, Housing and planning

Sustainable waste management in Maroondah City Council

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Maroondah City Council is a peri-urban residential local government area in Victoria, Australia in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne with a population of 117,498 residents and 45,665 households (at June 2019).

In October 2022, Maroondah City Council became the first Council to supply municipal solid waste to the Maryvale Energy EfW in Victoria.

What is energy-from-waste? 

Also known as waste to energy, energy-from-waste (EfW) refers to treatment technologies which derive the energy value from waste for turning into electricity, biogas, heating or fuel. The technology creates energy from the controlled combustion of non-hazardous waste materials that would otherwise go to landfill and provides an important source of renewable, sustainable energy and is a vital link in the waste management chain.

Sustainable waste management in Maroondah 

A sustainable approach to waste is 1 of 8 outcomes in Maroondah’s long-term vision for 2040. The Waste, Litter & Resource Recovery Strategy 2020 – 2030 showed that in the 2019-2020 financial year, Maroondah City Council sent 20,144 tonnes to landfill and generated 11,259 tonnes of commingle recycling and 15,261 tonnes of garden waste. However, with 24,861 tonnes of recycling and green waste diverted from landfill in 2021/22, Maroondah creates less landfill waste than the average Melbourne household. Consequently, as of the 31st March 2021, Maroondah City Council has been certified Carbon Neutral by Climate Active for its operations as a public statutory body.

Nonetheless, population growth risks sending more waste to landfill, with general waste currently disposed of at Hanson Landfill in Wollert which uses greenhouse gas capture and management. Moreover, a significant challenge Maroondah identified is local governments limited scope of influence over the production chain which generates waste, dealing with materials at the end of the value chain – when resources become rubbish.

However, policy direction at the state level in the form of Recycling Victoria ensures the development of a energy from waste sector in Victoria with investment support, funding of research for end-use of residual products and developing a waste to energy framework.

The Maryvale EfW project

The Maryvale Energy from Waste (EfW) project is targeted for the second half of 2022, with the facility potentially operational by late 2025.

Opal, Veolia and Masdar Tribe Australia have designed this state-of-the-art EfW facility to be constructed at Opal Australian Paper’s Maryvale Mill in the Latrobe Valley. The EfW facility will use non-recyclable residual waste to produce steam and electricity to supply the Mill

The Maryvale EfW project has EPA and Latrobe City Council regulatory approvals for construction and has been granted $48.2 million through the Federal Government’s Modern Manufacturing Initiative.

To ensure that the Maryvale EFW plant does not impact upon waste reduction initiatives, supply plans to councils maximise higher-order solutions, meaning participating councils will only be required to pay for capacity used, incurring no penalty for councils that successfully implement residual waste reduction initiatives

With air quality impact assessment indicating no impact to human health, and the site buffered from urban development, Mayor of Maroondah, Councillor Mike Symon said supplying non-recyclable municipal solid waste will help the council meet its strategic targets.

“Our Waste, Litter and Resource Recovery Strategy 2020–2030 has identified a need for Council to focus on more sustainable waste and recycling methods, with the main objective to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill,”.

Estimations of the facility calculate a net reduction of 270,000 tonnes per annum in greenhouse gases, which is the equivalent to removing 50,000 cars from the road annually. It is envisaged that Maroondah City Council will send about 20,000 tonnes of non-recyclable household general waste to the facility per annum. Up to 325,000 tonnes of non-recyclable residual waste from Councils and businesses will be used to produce energy for the Maryvale Mill, with a net benefit to Victoria’s energy network will result in enough gas and electricity to power over 50,000 homes.

To conclude, Cllr Symon encapsulates the significance of sustainable approaches to waste, and comments that “this project is just one of the ways Council is thinking outside the square to build a more sustainable future for our community”.

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

All things Ireland: Bracing for November

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Welcome to All things Ireland

Welcome to All Things Ireland, the new weekly overview brought to you by LGIU Ireland team. This edition looks at back at the week and includes a comprehensive weekly breakdown of All Things local government in Ireland.

This week, LGIU Ireland heard from Galway City Council about Active Travel in the West of Ireland and how they became the first Irish Council to implement a City Centre School Street. You can find the full account from Galway City Council here.

From the LGIU Ireland team

The week in Irish Local Government

Planning

This week details were released for the Residential Zoned Land Tax. Introduced in the Finance Act 2021, The Residential Zoned Land Tax is a new tax aimed at increasing housing supply by activating zoned, serviced residential development lands (including mixed-use lands) for housing. Read more here.

Wexford County Council’s funding application was approved by the Office of Public Works Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme. Under the scheme, funding of €44,218 is set for a Feasibility Study at Bridgemeadows, Co Wexford. To find out more, click here.

Finance

Department of Finance released the fiscal monitor for October 2022. Exchequer figures show that tax revenues to end-October were €63.9 billion, a 25% increase from last year. Find out more here.

Housing

The government published its first annual update of Housing for All. Under the plan, supply of new homes is increasing with 20,807 new homes completed in the first three quarters of the year, more than the whole of 2021 (20,560) or any other year since the CSO series began in 2011. Check out the full report and reactions here.

Society

Minister for Social Protection announced a double Child Benefit payment will be paid this week to support 638,000 families with the cost of living. The measure means that €280 will be paid in respect of 1.2 million children across the State. Read here.

Dublin North Inner City, Longford and Waterford are set to host a pilot Local Community Safety Partnerships (LCSPs) scheme. LCSPs aim to combat anti-social behaviour by creating a tailored local community safety plan with input from the local community and public services. Once the LCSPs are rolled out to your area, you can get involved by contacting your local authority or your local community safety coordinator. Find out more here.

Transport

This week three new Greenway and road projects will be open for locals and visitors in Kerry. Funded by  Department of Transport and delivered by Kerry County Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland, click here to read more from Chief Executive of Kerry County Council, Moira Murrell.

Community

67 projects are to be funded under the International Protection Integration Fund 2022. With every county in Ireland set to benefit via multiple projects, the Fund aims to enable community based organisations across Ireland to play a greater role in supporting the integration of International Protection applicants at local and national level. Find more about the projects here.

Northern Ireland

Ahead of Northern Ireland’s local government elections in 2024, the Northern Ireland Local Government Association launched a new campaign to encourage people of all backgrounds, abilities, sexes, genders, sexual orientations, and races to step forward for election. Find out more here.

Environment

A study from COFORD on the economic activity and employment levels in the Irish Forest Sector showed the economic contribution to the economy is estimated at over €2 billion per annum. The full report is available here.

On a lighter note…

Cork City’s first Cost Rental apartment Scheme opened this week. Delivered in partnership by Cork City Council, Clúid Housing, O’Callaghan Properties, and CField Construction, a Cost Rental Scheme means rents must be a minimum of 25% below open market values.

Remarking upon the projects completion, Cork City Council Chief Executive, Ann Doherty commented that this “represents an exciting evolution in the realisation of much-needed affordable and social homes in Cork City”. Find out more about Cork City Council and the Cost Rental Scheme here.

Coming up…

Looking ahead into next week, LGIU Ireland is set to bring you all the latest on housing and will review everything local government related in the latest Oireachtas report.

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

All things Scotland: Another Busy Week for Local Government

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Welcome to All things Scotland

This week, LGIU Scotland took a look at the recent Dad’s Survey 2022, an annual survey of Scottish Dad’s conducted by Fathers Net Scotland. With input from Gayle Gorman, the Chief Executive of Education Scotland and His Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education read the LGIU’s local government lens on Fathers Net Scotland here, Dad’s Survey 2022: The key takeaways for Councils.

Reports and updates

This week

  • Audit Scotland released a radical call for action on data. With Accounts Commission and Auditor General repeatedly highlighting the existence of data gaps across a wide variety of policy areas, this blog is essential reading for those in the public sector. Read the full blog post here, or check out this BBC Scotland article.
  • Social Security Scotland’s annual publication contains the latest estimates of take-up of Scottish benefits. Encompassing the Scottish Child Payment, Best Start Grant, Best Start Foods, Young Carer Grant, Job Start Payment and Funeral Support Payment. You can find the full publication here.
  • Scottish Government Cost of Living report. This report draws together analysis from a wide range of sources to provide an overview of emerging evidence on the cost of living crisis. It includes evidence from Scotland and the UK as well as from other European countries. Read the full report here.
  • This master register of Compulsory Purchase Order’s (CPO’s) is updated to October 2022 and provides a breakdown of local authority applications for a CPO. Find out more here.
  • The Delivery Plans for Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation set out how it will work with partners to implement the National Strategy for Economic Transformation. The Group brings in the COSLA President to ensure local government retains crucial role as a delivery partner for NSET. You can find more details here.
  • Scottish Social Attitudes survey 2021/22: attitudes data. The SSA survey is run by ScotCen Social Research, with the aim of collecting objective data about public attitudes on issues relevant to Scotland. To find out how public attitudes to local government compare to the UK and Scottish Government’s, click here.
  • Short Life Working Group on Processions in Scotland released recommendations to improve how marches and parades are planned and organised across Scotland have been published. City of Edinburgh Council, Glasgow City Council and COSLA are among the key partners considering the report recommendations. Read the recommendations here.

From LGIU

This week LGIU Scotland has a tailored array of briefings that are useful for understanding and informing local government this November.

This week in Holyrood…

  • After much anticipation, the Emergency Budget Review for 2022-23 released this week sets out the next steps that Scottish Government is taking to respond to the current economic circumstances. Click here for more.
  • At its meeting on 25 October, Finance and Public Administration Committee took evidence on the Financial Memorandum (FM) for the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill from Scottish Government officials and from representatives of local government. This report is essential reading to understanding recent debates over the NCS and you can find it here.
  • Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy responded to the National Care Service Bill.  The professional body for people in public finance, CIPFA was involved in the Integrated Resource Advisory Group. Real CIPFA’s financial analysis here.
  • A cross-party group launched a new report on rent control options for Scotland. The outcome of a collaborative effort from the Scottish housing sector, Professor Ken Gibb, director of the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE), presented the report which you can read here.
  • Finally, Storm Arwen report reviewed how organisations across Scotland have put in place a series of measures to protect communities from the effects of severe weather ahead of winter. With key resilience recommendations to strength local government’s responses, read the full report here.

On a lighter note…

Aberdeenshire Council is encouraging residents to both carve and consume their pumpkins this Halloween to save money and reduce food waste.

Waste Manager Ros Baxter commented: “29% of what people throw away in Aberdeenshire can be recycled at the kerbside using existing services—and the majority of that 29% is actually easily identifiable food waste. This means that there is an opportunity for residents to both save their money, reduce waste, and divert council resource to more beneficial areas.”

Follow Aberdeenshire’s Waste Facebook Page to find more pumpkin recipes and food-waste recycling tips.

Coming up…

Keep your eyes peeled for LGIU content next week, news, views and we publish our conversation with Alan Russell, Chief Executive of Renfrewshire Council and briefings on Finland and Community Cooperation as well as covering the latest in energy and homelessness policy.

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England & Wales, Global Communities and society, Economy and regeneration

Creativity, hard work and partnership underscore cost of living support at South Tyneside

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Many councils are making heroic efforts to support their communities during the cost of living crisis. Councillor Ruth Berkley from South Tyneside Council outlines their approach with partners and wonders why this is necessary at all in one of the world’s richest economies. Find out more about the work of councils to support their constituents during this cost of living crisis. 

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

South Tyneside is an amazing borough full of history, passionate people and beautiful natural and coastal assets, as well as an innovative business base which is leading the way on the green economy, from minewater and electric vehicles to offshore wind. However, as one of the most deprived areas of the country, poverty has been an issue in South Tyneside for many years. Back in 2019 the People Select Committee started an in-depth investigation to ensure the Council was doing all it could to help people escape poverty while supporting those in difficult circumstances. Little did we know then that things were set to get so much worse. Firstly, the pandemic plunged many of our residents into dire straits while those already struggling with their finances found things so much harder. Now a cost-of-living crisis is making life so much tougher for many more of our residents, including middle income earners who have never struggled financially before.

The extent of the challenge cannot be understated. South Tyneside is an area of deprivation with almost half its population living within the most deprived 20 per cent of England. Over the last three months our Welfare Support Team has seen a doubling of applications for local welfare provision, Citizens Advice has seen a 23 per cent increase in clients over the last six months, the number of those in work accessing food banks has risen and we are seeing a rise in loan shark activity.

The reality is stark and there is little sign that we can expect things to improve any time soon given the current macroeconomic picture.

So the problems are huge but if there is one thing that sets South Tyneside apart it is our partnership working and determination to pull together for the benefit of our residents. We recently organised a cost-of-living summit which demonstrated this fact. More than 60 representatives from 28 organisations including charities, faith groups, food banks, the NHS, transport and other partners joined the Council to see how we could effectively respond to the challenges.

Direct action has already been taken. Since the summit, the Council has launched its Warm Spaces. More than 50 spaces in venues such as our public buildings, community centres, churches and charities are now available where people can beat the chill and the cost of living as well as access free activities.

A cost-of-living directory of support has also been prepared, highlighting the breadth of support people can access, from food banks and debt advice to subsidised travel and energy efficiency.

Moves will also be taken to better promote the Welfare Support Service which helps people navigate the benefits system to ensure they are receiving the help they are entitled to. Last year the team secured £4.6million for residents who were either not claiming the benefits they were entitled to or recovered benefits at appeal which had been stopped by the Department of Work and Pensions. Our debt caseworkers are currently advising people with a total debt of £863,624.63. Last year our team helped their clients write-off or manage £672,000 of debt, allowing people to spend their money on essential living costs instead of throwing it at bad debt. The impact of this work is simply transformative and we are looking to see if we can boost capacity in the team to allow more people to be helped.

We are also looking to establish an online cost-of-living support hub which would allow ourselves and our partners to see where demand is greatest and ensure we all have access to the most up to date support for residents and can target it effectively. This includes regular partner surveys and intelligence reports to enable us to look at the issues in real time. This is not a situation that one organisation can tackle independently so signposting to one another and using each other’s resources and expertise will be critical.

As a Council, we already support vulnerable people through donations to the Borough’s food banks with more than £440,000 given since 2020/21. Going forward, we, together with our partners, will consider how to support the expansion of community shops and pantries which provide subsidised food.  We are also considering further dedicated support and funding to debt advice agencies which have seen a surge in demand as well as how we can work with local businesses to maximise support, be that on funding or volunteering. We are also taking a partnership approach to the Household Support Fund by working with partners to identify those just above the benefits line but who are really struggling and in need of support.

Despite our strenuous efforts, there is only so much that local government can do. Our Leader, Councillor Tracey Dixon, has already written to the Chancellor to highlight the devastating impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on our residents and to call for additional support. We believe there is a genuine safeguarding issue and need more support to be able to help our residents through this incredibly challenging time. Letters have also been sent to the energy companies to ask them for more support for those hardest hit by soaring energy prices.

Despite high levels of deprivation, I am uplifted by the resilience that is shown by the people of South Tyneside. I am also proud that as communities we pull together in adversity. This was shown very clearly in the pandemic and that resilience will be needed again now. When times are hard, we support each other and our sense of community shines through. There is also a determination and a willingness from those with the means to offer support to pool our resources to best effect. It is only by working together that we can seek to make a real difference to those at the sharp end of this crisis. Strong partnerships and a genuine desire to be part of the solution are what sets us apart. The question remains, however, whether this ought to be necessary in the fifth richest country in the world.

Cllr Ruth Berkley is the Lead Member for the Voluntary Sector, Partnerships and Equality, South Tyneside Council

 

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.



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

Local response to crisis offers some hope

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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. 



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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

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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.

Outcomes

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



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Scotland Communities and society, Welfare and equalities

Dad’s Survey 2022: The key takeaways for Councils

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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. 



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