Global Culture, sport and tourism, Public health

Play in everyday life: how can we reimagine the places we live to be more playful?

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Introduction

What comes to mind when we think of “play”? Is play something that only children engage in, or can adults play, and be playful, too? As there are a myriad of physical, cognitive, emotional, and social benefits of play for children, why don’t more adults engage in play? Should we consider it to be at the forefront of how we design and make the places we live?

Want to learn more about local government and play? Read our bulletin Global Local: Play packed with practical guidance and inspiring practice. Find out more about Global Local bulletins and get new insights to your inbox each week for free.

The benefits of play for all ages

Play is, in essence, something that is fun and enjoyable for all ages. Yet it is also fundamental in physical, cognitive, emotional and social development, particularly of children, as they learn to interact and understand themselves, other people, and the world they are part of. There are specific benefits to outdoor play, which is something the Scottish Government recognises, and the need to embed outdoor play in the everyday lives of children.

Play that involves lots of movement such as running and jumping— sports like a spontaneous game of football, or games like tig— promotes and encourages physical activity which can lead to increased cardiovascular fitness. When we are active we develop strong muscles and bones, and maintain a healthy weight. In play such as water play to tree climbing (as opposed to more structured and purposeful physical activity) there is the opportunity to develop fine and gross motor skills, coordination, balance and agility. Play-based activities such as outdoor den building and memory games that require mental engagement have cognitive benefits including improving attention and concentration, enhancing problem-solving, encouraging creativity and imagination, fostering representation skills to conceptualise surroundings, and helping develop self-discipline and focus. Social skills are significantly developed through play as individuals learn to interact with others— including negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and developing resilience, while also fostering empathy and awareness of others. Games and activities such as nature trails and orienteering help develop self-awareness, confidence, independence and choice making, and an interest in learning. Play furthermore allows individuals to explore their feelings and emotions, can help relieve stress, manage anxiety and allow individuals become more at ease with themselves and the world around them.

Seeing play as integrated into our everyday lives

While these benefits of play are recognised, this piece seeks to take this further by raising questions about where and how we play— and in what ways is play integrated into our lives at all ages. Do we consider play as something spontaneous, happening wherever and whenever the opportunity arises, or is it something organised, planned and structured like recreational sports, meaning it is segregated and separated from day to day of life? Like the phrase “work, rest, and play”; Distinct, separate and disconnected.

Arguably conventional approaches to urban planning have come to reflect this separation, with designated areas for work, rest (our homes), and play (parks, sports facilities, etc.). Changes in technology, and the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic and our post-lockdown world, have blurred these lines. For example, we now have come to work and play from the places we call home, with an increase in home working, and home-based exercise equipment becoming more commonplace.

However, can we envision a different approach, one where play becomes seamlessly integrated into our lives and the very fabric of the places we live? If you have ever taken a bus journey with a child, or maybe a walk, you’ll have encountered this mindset. ‘I’ll race you to the bus stop’, or ‘Can you spot interesting things out the window as we travel?’ come naturally to children and their playful nature. This is a way of being an active participant in the world— a way of learning, understanding it, and being part of it. Perhaps, looking at things from a child’s perspective we can embody the child that is in all of us, and see play differently.

Play, travel and the sustainability challenge

How we physically move and travel within the places we live— our villages, towns, and cities— is a fundamental issue that intersects across many contemporary sustainability challenges. Transport and mobility issues touch on climate change to air quality, noise and stress, congestion and public space, physical activity and mental health and wellbeing, cost of living and access to core services and work. While we have sought to address the challenge of carbon emissions from fossil fuels— with some success in terms of reducing emissions from electricity production for example— carbon emissions from transport have remained quite static over a period of time. The current focus on shifting to electric vehicles might offer some benefit in terms of emissions, but what about those other issues? A traffic jam of electric vehicles is still congestion. An electrified version of our car-centric transport system does not realise the opportunity for the physical and mental wellbeing benefits of alternative, and active, forms of mobility for those that can and would like to incorporate them into their lives.

Is there an opportunity to be playful in the way we move and interact with each other and the places we live, and to reimagine the act of everyday mobility and transport in terms of play, and playfulness? If forms of active travel through means such as cycling, walking and wheeling can be integrated into the daily lives of communities, there is the opportunity to realise the aforementioned benefits associated with play, but also much wider positive social, economic and environmental outcomes and practices (see this piece from The Conversation and the wider range of research by Sustrans).

In previous work for LGIU I have written about the integration of outdoor lifestyles into the fabric and culture of some of the Nordic nations. It is notable play is embedded into the fabric of places more distinctly than is often the case in the UK— inner-city play parks, for example, are commonplace— but also in terms of supporting adults being playful in terms of facilities and cultural locations. Many of these integrate with the design of place and transport more generally— from bike parking at train stations to more subtle forms (for example, one of my favourite things I have come across in the small play spaces that can be found on some inter-city Finnish trains!

Play as part of urban planning decision making

Local governments are under pressure to deliver services in a time when budgets have been squeezed over a number of years. Developing and maintaining places and services related to play are vulnerable to being overlooked as part of that trend. But, there is a way around this by intersecting play with other wider priority issues where decisions are made through the lens of increased space and provision for play. At the same time, local governments need to meet climate change and associated place and transport-related ambitions and developments. Low Emissions Zones and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods can all support increases space for movement and play, and decisions underpinning these shifts are a recognition that there is a pressing need to reimagine ways we live and move in the places we inhabit. However, recent framing of these interventions in the media has shown these can be difficult to communicate, implement and integrate, and have been met with some resistance from members of the public. By framing them in terms of play might we be able to develop more acceptance of their benefits?

Recognising the multitude physical, social, and cognitive benefits of play to children, and adults alike, especially in the outdoors, how can we include play in the everyday lives of people? What opportunities arise from reframing travel and place-related interventions in terms of play, and playfulness? And, crucially, how can our places be designed to support citizens and communities to be more playful?

Dr. James Bonner is currently undertaking a research associate position with the Physical Activity for Health Group, Department of Psychological Sciences & Health at the University of Strathclyde. He is contributor to the evolving interdisciplinary Active Mobility Hub at the University. www.actify.org.uk/strath-activemobility  



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The Sami people, often also referred to as the Sami or Saami, are one of the world’s oldest Indigenous communities, residing in the Arctic regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia’s Kola Peninsula. With a rich cultural heritage deeply connected to their ancestral lands, the Sami have developed unique governance systems that reflect their values, traditions, and commitment to preserving their way of life. In this feature, we explore the distinctive local government structures among the Sami people, highlighting their efforts to safeguard their language, customs, and natural environment amidst contemporary challenges.

 

Historical Context of Sami Governance:

The Sami people have a long and rich history that dates back thousands of years. As one of the oldest Indigenous communities in Europe – and the only recognised Indigenous people left in the EU – they have inhabited the northern reaches of the Scandinavian Peninsula, including parts of present-day northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia’s Kola Peninsula since the end of the last ice age about 10,000 years ago.

Throughout their history, the Sami people have faced a multitude of challenges that have threatened their distinct identity, culture, and traditional way of life. Some of the major challenges have revolved around colonisation and forceful assimilation policies, as Sapmi – the region the Sami inhabit, has been subject to colonisation and encroachment by various nations and settlers. As nation-states formed in Scandinavia and Russia, the Sami people often faced forced assimilation, displacement, and land dispossession, resulting in the loss of their ancestral territories.

Assimilation policies imposed by national governments aimed to suppress the Sami culture, language, and traditions. The banning of the Sami language in schools and the promotion of dominant cultures led to the erosion of cultural identity and weakened traditional practices. To this date, the Sami people face the threat of being forcibly relocated from their traditional lands for development projects, such as dam construction and resource extraction.

Yet, despite the challenges, the Sami have successfully maintained their distinct cultural identity, language, and traditional way of life, closely tied to reindeer herding, fishing, hunting, and gathering.

 

The traditional form of Sami local governance

The traditional governance of the Sami people was based on kinship, communal cooperation, and the use of their ancestral lands. Each Sami community had its own local governing structures, where decisions were made collectively, and consensus-building played a central role. These traditional forms of governance were characterised by flexibility, adaptability, and an understanding of the delicate balance between human activity and the natural environment – and this is what the Sami have brought along to their governance today.

Elders and community leaders, known as “ålderman” or “siida-chiefs,” played pivotal roles in the Sami local governance systems. They were responsible for mediating disputes, managing communal resources, and upholding customary law. Decisions were often reached through the process of “Sami rievdadus,” which involved seeking counsel from elders and considering the needs of all community members.

 

Modern-day Sami Parliaments

In the 20th century, with the emergence of modern nation-states in the Nordic countries, the Sami people faced ever-increasing challenges to their land rights, culture, and way of life. As a response to these pressures and demands for political representation, the Sami established their own representative bodies known as “Sami parliaments” or “Sami assemblies”.

Norway, Sweden, Finland and Kola Peninsula now all have their own Sami parliament, each consisting of a different number of members.

For example, in Finland, the 21 members and four deputy members of the Ssmi Parliament are elected from among the Ssmi people every four years through elections. Each municipality within the Sami homeland must elect a minimum of three representatives to the Sami Parliament. A candidate for the Sami Parliament can be nominated by a selector association formed by three Sami individuals. The last elections were held in the autumn of 2019, which means the next elections for 2024 are just around the corner.

The establishment of Sami parliaments and assemblies marked a significant milestone in the recognition of Sami rights and the preservation of their culture. These representative bodies act as bridges between the Sami communities and national governments, facilitating dialogue and negotiations on issues of crucial importance to the Indigenous people. Through their work, Sami parliaments have contributed to advancements in education, cultural preservation, and land rights, while also striving to protect the environment and address the impacts of climate change on traditional livelihoods.

However, challenges persist across Sapmi, including ongoing debates over land use, the balance between economic development and environmental conservation, and the need for further recognition and respect for Sami rights across national borders.

Additionally, in Finland there have been challenging conversations about who is eligible to vote in the Sami parliamentary elections, which have been reserved for only approved Sami votes. In the last elections, people without Indigenous heritage entered the elections against the residing parliament’s wishes, which has been criticised by UN’s Human Rights Committee. The Sami parliaments and assemblies remain central to the preservation and promotion of Sami culture and identity – and enjoy autonomy in certain decision-making – ensuring that the ancient traditions of this Indigenous community continue to thrive into the future.

In addition to the four Sami parliaments, the Skolt Sami people are the only Sami group (about 300 people) in the Nordic countries that have managed to preserve their traditional decision-making body, known as “siidsååbbar” or village assembly, as part of their living culture.

Skolt village assemblies are known to have been in operation since the 1600s. These assemblies held significant decision-making power, including matters related to land use, taxation, and dispensing justice within the community. They even had the authority in resolving minor criminal cases, with a trusted representative leading the assemblies.

 

Comment: 

The unique local governance structures among the Sami people exemplify their resilience, cultural richness, and commitment to safeguarding their heritage for future generations. By fostering collaboration between the Sami communities and governments, promoting language revitalisation, and prioritising environmental stewardship, the Sami people are setting an inspiring example of how Indigenous governance can exist in the modern world. However, ongoing challenges persist, making it vital for policymakers and society at large to support and respect the rights of the Sami people in their pursuit of self-determination and cultural preservation.



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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.

Irish spotlight, June 21st: 

To mark the LGMA’s Your Council Day on June 23, we’re highlighting the services Irish local government provide for people and communities. In keeping with the theme of Your Council Day, we’ll be commemorating the range of work taking place across Irish local authorities, including the services not always associated with councils, such as arts and heritage, urban and village renewal, and tourism. We’re looking for perspectives on the importance of local government in Ireland and some of the services and work you think gets overlooked.

Turnaround cities, June 28th: 

Cities such as Dortmund or Lille have faced severe economic shocks and resulting cycles of long-term economic decline, but managed to transition to more successful futures. In this edition, we’re examining the cities that have faced industrial/economic decline but managed to turn things around, with particular focus on the actions post-industrial places took. We want to hear from you if your town, city or region has overcome a period of economic turbulence. 

The council and the car, July 19th: 

With pedestrianisation and low-traffic neighbourhoods increasingly popular and contentious, we’ll be covering the role of the car in our places in 2023. We’re looking for ways your council has tackled issues such as car dependency, congestion fees, or the electrification of your council fleet.

Citizen science, July 26th: 

For this edition, we’re looking for examples of citizen science projects you’ve organised or how you’ve promoted citizen science in your local area. Have you found citizen-led data collection projects have led to a greater understanding of your local environment? Has citizen science led to improve public engagement and awareness of local issues? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

Food policy councils, August 2nd:

Popular in North America and increasingly in Europe, food policy councils have begun to facilitate sustainable food system governance activities among local stakeholders, and act as an alternative to conglomerate food companies. With their focus on sustainable outcomes and democratic processes, we want to know how these councils have operated in practice. We’d love to hear your experience of participating or operating food policy councils in your local area.

Coastal management, TBA: 

We’re looking for insight on how your coastal management teams balance the risk to life, property and environment caused by coastal erosion, alongside perspectives on advising new and existing developments on your coastline and managing the threats of flooding.

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 [email protected]  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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England & Wales, Scotland Democracy, devolution and governance

New councillor? LGIU is here for you

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This welcome message is part of our Resources for New Councillors.

Congratulations on being elected as a new councillor. You are at the start of an amazing journey, representing your local communities and helping to shape local services and neighbourhoods during the biggest cost of living crisis we have seen for decades.

The role of a councillor can be unbelievably rewarding, but no-one said it was easy. How do you keep on top of everything that’s going on? How do you process huge amounts of technical information at short notice? How do you know what other councils are doing and what works? How do you navigate a sea of information to find the best ideas?

That’s where LGIU comes in. For 40 years the LGIU has been by the side of local government. We are the largest independent membership organisation for councils and a registered charity. We give councillors and council officers the information they need to do their jobs today, the ideas they need to improve for the future and the networks they need to learn and to share.

We do this through briefings, a daily news service, training, independent research and practitioner networks.

And it’s not just in the UK. We believe that local government is at its best when it is informed, engaged and networked, and that all our members gain value from global perspectives, lessons and relationships. We work across the UK, the Republic of Ireland and Australia and share best practices from around the globe.

We know that places are unique, sometimes even down to a neighbourhood or a street; but so many of the challenges faced by local governments and by elected representatives are shared with their colleagues across countries and across continents. That’s why our Global Local newsletter service shares local government good practice and innovation from around the world.

We would love you to be part of all that we do. We are only as good as the combined wisdom of our members and the more we hear from you the better we can serve you. If your council is a member of LGIU you have unlimited access to all our materials and resources. We hope that they help you as you begin your career as a councillor.

Best wishes,

 


Jonathan Carr-West
Chief Executive
LGIU

New councillor? What you need to know about LGIU

The Local Government Information Unit is your source for information, innovation and ideas about local government. Founded by local government, fully owned and governed by local government and staffed by people who are passionate about local democracy – LGIU is your organisation. And we want to help you get the most out of LGIU.

Our resources for new councillors page is probably the best place to start. You’ll find articles to help you get to grips with your new role including a briefing for new councillors. There are links to resources that will introduce you to some of the many topic areas you will come across as you progress and suggestions for training to build your skills.

If you are from an LGIU member council then everything on our website is available to you – you just need to sign up and create you free member website account. Make sure you opt in to receive ‘The essential resources’ (Daily News) update – it is a key part of your council’s LGIU membership and keeps you up-to-date with local government news and all your latest LGIU resources.

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Resources such as news services, our varied in-depth and detailed briefings and other content are exclusively for members. But non-members will find much of interest from the LGIU, including

Just sign up for a free website account and newsletter today.

So all that remains is to say: welcome to the LGIU! We hope you settle into your new role quickly and we look forward to working with you over the coming months and years.



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England & Wales, Northern Ireland Democracy, devolution and governance

Who runs the councils in No Overall Control?

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Made with Padlet

 

Following the elections in May 2023,  there are 91 councils across England in “No Overall Control”.  Ingrid Koehler and Greg Stride look at what this means in practice. This post is part of LGIU’s one-stop shop for local elections coverage, analysis and support

Sign up for a free LGIU account to keep up to date with local government.

What does NOC mean in practice?

So what does it mean to be a NOC council? As you might expect, it’s a little different in each council area. Some councils have a minority administration often because one party has half or close to half of the seats and they are the largest party. In other places coalitions are formed where the political flavour is a little more evenly distributed. In some councils, the largest political party is unable to form a minority administration because a coalition of smaller parties has banded together. Across these different possibilities we see a range of governance options.

In practice, NOC councils can work really well and help politicians come together around local issues without spending too much time on party political issues. In other NOC councils, there is constant political jostling.

When councils mainly operated under committee systems, some councils had rotating chairs and power was genuinely shared. Most councils now have Cabinet systems and decisions are made by the executive rather than in committees. And this is why councils with a Leader and Cabinet model want clear majorities and there can be a scramble for power when the political balance is fine. Effectively, though, once the leader has been chosen he or she can form a cabinet and get on with running the council, with only occasional need to go to the full council on things like budget setting.

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGIU:

“Councils in No Overall Control is a quirk of local authority governance that can be confusing for citizens. But it doesn’t mean that no one’s making decisions. In most cases one party will be able to form a cabinet, either with support from other parties or because the other parties do not agree on enough to effectively oppose them. That might sound unstable but in reality NOC councils have a pretty good track record of getting business done effectively.”

How is it calculated?

At the LGIU, we define a council as NOC if no single party holds 50%+1 of the seats.

England’s “first past the post” system for individual wards tends to favour bigger parties so it’s often easier for local party machinery to get out candidates in all wards and depending on the flavour of local politics have one party or another in charge. Most of England’s councils are majority run and some councils are or nearly are a one party state, for example Lewisham in London or Manchester which has over 90 Labour councillors and only a few Liberal Democrats.

Where alternative voting systems are used, such as in Scotland or Northern Ireland, multiple parties often win considerable numbers of seats. In Northern Ireland, by design it’s very difficult for any single party to have a majority administration – none of the 11 Northern Ireland districts with elections in 2023 have a single party majority. The single transferrable vote (STV) system encourages multi-party ward representation so to gain an all-out majority means that not only must one party do really well across all wards, other parties must not also do consistently well as a 2nd or 3rd choice.

Councils with No Overall Control in England up for election this year

There were  230 councils in England holding elections this year. Unfortunately, there is no central data source collecting information on all council seats, vacancies or control, so we have made use of the excellent data collected at Open Council Data UK. The numbers here are correct as of 16/03/2023 using our definition of No Overall Control mentioned above.

Of the 230 councils holding elections, 75 of them did not currently have a party with 50%+1 seats. 49 of these are holding all-council elections, meaning that the party composition could change substantially after the election. The other 26 are holding elections in only a third of their seats.

Since the 2023 elections, this number has increased to 91 councils in No Overall Control  – our table below highlights those councils in NOC and which party holds the largest number of seats. In the days following election, and sometimes until the end of May, negotiations take place among elected councillors as which parties will form a ruling coalition. As of writing (9 May 2023), we are not currently collating this information.

histogram of political control of councils

 

CouncilPre-election control2023 outcomeNOC Largest PartyRegion
ArunCON minNOCCONSouth East
AshfordCON minNOCCONSouth East
BaberghIND/LD/GRNNOCGRNEast of England
Basingstoke and DeaneCON minNOCCONSouth East
BoltonCON minNOCLABNorth West
Bournemouth, Christchurch and PooleCON minNOCLDSouth West
BrentwoodCONNOCLD/CON TieEast of England
BroadlandCONNOCCONEast of England
BromsgroveCONNOCCONWest Midlands
BurnleyLAB/LDNOCLABNorth West
Cannock ChaseCONNOCCONWest Midlands
CanterburyCONNOCLABSouth East
Castle PointCIIP/PIPNOCINDEast of England
Central BedfordshireCONNOCINDEast of England
CharnwoodCONNOCCONEast Midlands
CherwellCONNOCCONSouth East
Cheshire EastLAB/INDNOCCONNorth West
ColchesterLD/LAB/GRNNOCCONEast of England
DarlingtonCON minNOCLABNorth East
DerbyCON minNOCLABEast Midlands
Derbyshire DalesNOCNOCLDEast Midlands
East DevonIND/LD/GRNNOCINDSouth West
East HampshireCONNOCCONSouth East
East HertfordshireCONNOCGRNEast of England
East LindseyCONNOCCONEast Midlands
East Riding of YorkshireCONNOCCONYorkshire and The Humber
East SuffolkCONNOCGRNEast of England
ElmbridgeIND/LDNOCLDSouth East
Folkestone and HytheCON/GRN/LD/INDNOCLDSouth East
Forest of DeanIND/GRNNOCGRNSouth West
Great YarmouthCONNOCCONEast of England
HarboroughCONNOCCONEast Midlands
HartIND/LDNOCLD/CONSouth East
HartlepoolCON/INDNOCLABNorth East
HerefordshireIND/GRNNOCCONWest Midlands
HertsmereCONNOCCONEast of England
HyndburnLAB minNOCLAB/CONNorth West
Kings Lynn and West NorfolkCONNOCCONEast of England
LancasterGRN/INDNOCLABNorth West
LewesLD/GRN/LAB/INDNOCGRNSouth East
LichfieldCONNOCCONWest Midlands
MaidstoneCONNOCCONSouth East
MaldonCON/IND/LDNOCINDEast of England
Malvern HillsIND/LDNOCINDWest Midlands
MeltonCONNOCCONEast Midlands
Mid SussexCONNOCLDSouth East
Milton KeynesLAB/LDNOCLABSouth East
Newark and SherwoodCONNOCCONEast Midlands
North HertfordshireLAB/LDNOCLABEast of England
North SomersetIND/LD/LAB/GRNNOCCONSouth West
North WarwickshireCONNOCCONWest Midlands
North West LeicestershireCONNOCLABEast Midlands
PendleCONNOCCONNorth West
PeterboroughCON minNOC CONEast of England
PortsmouthLD minNOCLDSouth East
Redcar and ClevelandIND/LDNOCNorth East
Ribble ValleyCONNOCCONNorth West
RochfordNOCNOCCONEast of England
RotherIND/LD/LABNOCCON/INDSouth East
RugbyCONNOCCONWest Midlands
RunnymedeCONNOCCONSouth East
RutlandCON/IND/GRNNOCLDEast Midlands
SheffieldLAB/LD/GRNNOCLABYorkshire and The Humber
SloughLABNOCCONSouth East
South GloucestershireCONNOCCONSouth West
South KestevenCONNOCCONEast Midlands
Southend-on-SeaLAB/IND/LDNOCCONEast of England
SpelthorneCON minNOCCONSouth East
StaffordCON minNOCCONWest Midlands
Staffordshire MoorlandsCONNOCLABWest Midlands
StockportLD minNOCLDNorth West
Stockton-on-TeesLAB minNOCCONNorth East
SwaleLAB/IND/LD/GRNNOCLABSouth East
TamworthCONNOCCONWest Midlands
TandridgeIND minNOCINDSouth East
TendringCON/INDNOCCONEast of England
TewkesburyCONNOCLDSouth West
Tonbridge and MallingCONNOCCONSouth East
TorridgeINDNOCINDSouth West
Tunbridge WellsLD/IND/LABNOCLDSouth East
WarwickCON/INDNOCGRNWest Midlands
WaverleyIND/LD/LAB/GRNNOCLDSouth East
WealdenCONNOCLDSouth East
Welwyn HatfieldCONNOCCONEast of England
West DevonCONNOCCONSouth West
West LindseyCON minNOCLDEast Midlands
West OxfordshireLD/LAB/GRNNOCLDSouth East
West SuffolkCONNOCCONEast of England
WirralLAB minNOCLABNorth West
WokinghamLD/LAB/INDNOCLDSouth East
WorcesterCON minNOCLABWest Midlands

LGIU supporting local government every day

Every year LGIU puts the spotlight on local elections, with information, commentary and analysis for our members and wider local government. Because for us, these elections are the most important elections – the part of our democracy that is embedded in the places where we live and work. And supporting the people who make local elections happen, who uphold our local democracy, is at the heart of what the LGIU is about.

But we support local government every day, through our exclusive membership briefings and daily news, our resources for new councillors, training and policy events (some are exclusively for members, others attract a member discount) and our articles, comment and newsletters that are open to everyone who wants to improve local democracy. Why not sign up to stay informed and support strong local governance everywhere or find out more about membership.

Sign up for a free LGIU account to keep up to date with local government.

Resources for new councillors



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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 [email protected]  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

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

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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