Global

Telling the story of local government.

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Getting your story told

LGIU wants to work with you to tell your stories about your area’s unique experiences of developing and delivering policy solutions across a range of different communities and services.

We know it can seem daunting at first, but LGIU can work with you to get your story told. We’re always looking for ways to share case studies of emerging practice and policy development.

  1. We can edit what you write up or help you re-use something you may have shared internally or with residents.
  2. We can provide you with a topic guide or key questions that you can answer in your own time and we can write up into a blog post for your approval.
  3. We can interview you or a colleague for a Q&A or a feature piece.\
  4. We can interview you for our podcast.

We’re always looking for stories of change and improvement, new ideas and innovation. These stories don’t always have to be about ‘glowing success’. Most of our readers ask us for stories of ‘hard lessons’, explaining where things didn’t always go right or how you might have had to change direction in a policy. We understand that story can be hard to tell, particularly in a political environment.

Get in touch with us directly at [email protected] or submit your story here.

 

What kind of stories are we looking for?

We are open to stories about just about anything that you think your colleagues in local government might be interested in, after all, we do touch on everything local government does. However, as we move to a thematic approach through our Global Local bulletin we have a particular editorial need for these topics:

Cost of living crisis

How is your council or voluntary sector organisation supporting families as they face rising prices of commodities and fuel? How are you supporting your own staff? We want to highlight the work of councils supporting their communities.

  • Are you developing warm banks? Using community assets to help people stay warm like Aberdeen and Birmingham?
  • Are you strengthening and supporting your community and voluntary sector to continue their work?

Mining communities

The impact of mining and other extraction industries (forestry, fishing, oil, etc) on local communities. How has your local authority dealt with waxing and waning populations and needs as prices rise and fall? How have communities dealt with resources playing out and the need to re-skill? What about the environmental impacts of extractive industries on local communities and eco-systems? We are planning a Global Local bulletin early in 2023 looking at how communities are reinventing themselves ‘at the coalface’.

Convening community action

How can councils convene community action? What are the actions that are supportive of community groups building on their strengths to support each other and make neighbourhoods better places to live? And how can councils make sure that this support doesn’t just mean benefits flowing to the already blessed? Our earlier bulletins on community engagement focused on citizens’ assemblies and the use of technology to support better engagement.

Emergency management

We’ve had a series of unfortunate and largely unpredicted, unprecedented events over the past few years. Are our emergency management services up to scratch? How are councils preparing for the worst any better?

Local museums and history

Local museums can be custodians of past and place while also preparing communities to face the future and make a honest reckoning with history and culture. Do you have a great local museum? How are you working with them, supporting them and shaping our current views of where we live? Are you from a local museum that’s been working with local government? How is that partnership going? How could it be improved?

Abandoned housing

Many cities are facing a house crisis and sometimes the same places have housing that’s not in use or underused? How can we match need with supply?

Support for veterans

How is your council supporting veterans with employment, social and health support? How are you working with partners?

Loneliness

Loneliness has always been a problem, one with severe emotional and health impacts. As we continue to feel the impact of the height of the pandemic and self-imposed isolation during fresh waves of Covid, how are councils and communities building on the lessons of lockdowns?

Rural broadband

Are you in a rural area that’s trying to support economic development through the rollout of high speed broadband? If so, we’d love to hear from you. Or maybe your local authority is in a city and you’re dealing with urban not-spots in underserved communities.



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Scotland

All things Scotland: October look ahead

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Welcome to All things Scotland

As we rush headlong into October and autumn chill is in the air, we at LGIU have a bumper crop of briefings and blogs for you this month. Recognising the start of Challenge Poverty Week on October 3rd, the links below illustrate LGIU-focused content on how councils can navigate the cost of living crisis and changing economic climate. First launched by the Poverty Alliance in 2013, Challenge Poverty Week is an opportunity for people to get involved and unite with others in striving for a just and equal Scotland. Click here to get involved or view the events arranged on Challenge Poverty Week.

Cllr Awards 2022

Also on our radar is the upcoming Councillor Awards set in Dundee on October 12th. Following the 2022 local government election, this ceremony provides a useful opportunity to recognise both past and present Councillors and showcases the vital work local governments are doing. To find out more about Scotland’s 5th and only national award dedicated to Councillors, click here.

Reports and updates

In Holyrood, Net Zero Committee meeting discussed the role of local government in delivering Scotland’s 2045 Net Zero target and the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee discussed pre-budget scrutiny for 2023-24.

Also in Scotland, a new report gives guidance and updates existing advice for providing alcohol and addiction services, particularly the role of prevention. New evidence highlights the clear link between alcohol consumption and cancer, additionally highlights increased risk for smokers who consume alcohol and notes that deprivation is linked to high mortality. You can read a useful summary here of actions councils can take on this issue.

Coming up

Looking ahead to the rest of October, we have an array of topics ready for Scottish local government and the wider public sector. From an education resource bundle, an in-depth policy round-up from August and September, Scottish Government response to the UK budget and a detailed review of the future of hybrid working from member case studies, make sure to stay tuned to LGiU in Scotland.

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



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England & Wales, Scotland Education and children's services

e-Sgoil: remote learning from the Western Isles to the rest of Scotland

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Over the Summer I travelled to Stornoway to meet with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) and while I was there I dropped into e-Sgoil (sgoil is Gaelic for school) to hear about how an e-learning programme from the Western Isles became a nationwide provider of remote teaching and benchmark for e-learning globally.

Given that the population of 26,500 is spread over 15 inhabited islands and that secondary schools have pupil rolls that range in size from 1000 to 87, education delivery in the Western Isles has always posed an interesting set of challenges – and technology was always going to be one of the solutions. E-Sgoil was originally launched by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in 2016 to address teacher shortages and to ensure equity in subject choices for all pupils across the council area, regardless of what school they’re at or where in the islands they’re located.

Teacher shortages are not unique to the Western Isles. Other rural local authorities, and indeed some non-rural authorities in Scotland experience the same issues, most often in areas such as languages (especially Gaelic) and STEM. After success in the Western Isles, where it became integral part of the education system, e-Sgoil received funding from both the Scottish Government and Bòrd na Gàidhlig (the Gaelic board), and was able to expand its remit nationally. The programme now delivers a range of subjects to schools in all of Scotland’s 32 local authorities as and when teacher demand requires, and is an official part of Scotland’s National e-learning Offer.

E-Sgoil had been providing remote learning to schools in Scotland since long before the pandemic, and was already recognised internationally as a distance learning model. Unsurprisingly, the programme has significantly increased its impact and reach since March 2020 – something that has been attributed to the strength of e-Sgoil’s collaboration with partner organisations such as Education Scotland, the Northern Alliance, Skills Development Scotland, The West Partnership, Scotland’s National Centre for Languages, and Keep Scotland Beautiful.

Despite this increase in reach, the pandemic presented challenges too. In its aftermath, the public perception of e-learning has changed, with many now viewing it as a stop-gap solution to a crisis rather than an important and intrinsic part of a council’s education system. Virtual learning has been confused with “pandemic learning” and schools that retain online elements to teaching have been accused of copping out or hindering the return to “business as usual”.

There are also fears from teaching unions that embracing e-learning will lead to cuts in teacher numbers – In the summer of 2022, 88% of members of EIS in the Western Isles announced that they were willing to strike over “harmonised timetables and digitalised learning”.

The replacing of classroom-based teachers, though, goes very much against the spirit of e-Sgoil. They are clear in all of their messaging that it’s quite the opposite of that – that the programme offers staff and online teaching where schools can’t manage to employ a teacher because pupil uptake for a particular subject is too low, or there are teacher shortages. Further, that e-Sgoil allows teachers to work in a more flexible way, leading to some being retained in the profession who might otherwise have been unable to continue teaching.

Keeping it local and to illustrate this in my meeting I was given the example of a school in a very rural community on the island of Barra. Here, they only have the budget to employ an art teacher for a single day a week. One day’s employment per week is clearly not enough for the teacher to live or support a family on so ordinarily they would have to leave the community to seek employment elsewhere – removing a whole family from a small community, and all art teaching from the local school.

Enter e-Sgoil. The programme was able to employ that teacher to work teaching remotely for the other four days a week, allowing them to remain teaching in-person at the local school for the one day. The wins here are at least fourfold; the school keep their art teacher, the community keeps a young family, the teacher gets to stay in their community whilst also working full time, plus other schools across the country who also might be lacking an art teacher get to benefit from that teacher’s lessons. Additional spinoff benefits also include widening the range of subjects that schools can offer to pupils and improving digital skills for teachers as they are trained up in the use of the required software.

Given that e-Sgoil needs sustained support and finding in order to maintain its long-term viability, it’s important to recognise these benefits and shout about them.

And the success of e-Sgoil has been certainly been recognised internationally. They’ve presented at the World Education Summit,  had a visit from the Welsh Government looking at how they might replicate the model, had inquiries from Finland about how to use technology to keep indigenous languages alive, and are engaging with island communities from Guernsey to Sicily on how e-learning can become an intrinsic part of their education system and address some of their unique island needs.

I left e-Sgoil very glad I stopped in to chat. It’s genuinely exciting to see an example of a local authority doing something to address its own issues so well that’s been scaled to provide a service right across the country – how specific local challenges can drive innovation and excellence – and also illustrates perfectly how digital solutions can be game-changers in rural and remote communities, addressing multiple issues simultaneously.



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England & Wales, Global, Ireland, Scotland Personal and organisational development

New for you from LGIU

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Have you noticed anything different with our newsletters? Over the next couple of weeks we are introducing some changes in how we connect with our members. Of course the most obvious changes are visual, and we hope that you find the new layouts attractive and easy to use.

But the main changes are in how we deliver your member benefits to you, particularly the frequency. So first off, a hands up and an apology – we know that we sometimes send out quite a few updates.

We produce a lot of stuff – news roundups, in depth briefings, research reports, commentary, events and more – and we are always excited to make sure you get the benefit of everything. After all it is your membership.

We’ve been talking to our members a lot over the last few months and the upshot is that we are consolidating and streamlining our updates.

​​The LGIU has been supporting councils for almost 40 years now and we fully understand just how busy and fast-paced life in local government is – especially at the moment. Our purpose is to make sure that our local government colleagues are informed, engaged and connected.

We want you to have exactly what you need, when you need it, which is why we are making our updates more concise and digestible.

So what’s happening?

The new ‘Daily Digest’

Our Daily News and exclusive policy briefings for members are being combined each day into a single email! On Mondays, in the same email, you’ll also get a listing of all the briefings from the previous seven days. Plus we’ve made it easier for you to find and save our updates by introducing a newsletter library on our website.  There will be a few rare exceptions – when we send an extraordinary briefing – like at budget times.

…And finally

Look out every Friday for our new fun and light-hearted update, And Finally…, which will be full of entertaining local government stories, new blog posts and recommendations from LGIU staff of things to read, watch and do.

Manage your membership

The best way to make the most of all that the LGIU provides is to create a free account on our website. If you use your work email address then we will automatically set you up with a member account, if applicable, or a follower account if you are not a member. You can pick and choose emails and dive right into any policy briefing that you need.

And there’s more…

We recently launched our first LGIU individual subscription service, Global Local. We know that places are unique; but so many of the challenges faced by local governments are shared with their colleagues across countries and across continents. Each week we focus on a particular theme and bring you the most relevant projects, research and stories from across the globe.

If you are an LGIU member then Global Local is included as one of your member benefits.

Everyone else can subscribe to Global Local for less than $1 a week and get access to our Global briefings, archives and more.

Sign up with us and choose our Global Local subscription for a two-month free trial. Or sign up with us to get Global Local in brief



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England & Wales, Global Democracy, devolution and governance, Finance

Local government innovation constrained by funding system

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Andrew Walker, LGIU’s Head of Research the one of the Local Democracy Research Centre’s projects undertaken with Kevin Muldoon-Smith at the University of Northumberland and Mark Sandford at the House of Commons Library. This project compares funding in England to three other systems internationally

Innovation in local government is constrained by its funding system.

Those, like LGIU, who have long argued for devolution to local government, have tended to see the structures of governance and finance as separate but connected components that can be altered to boost local autonomy. But this overlooks the extent to which funding and regulation underpins the local government system as a whole. Shaping the context that public managers work in, the spaces within which they can make decisions, and the driving of certain behaviours in local government.

Councils in England are backed into a corner by the limited funding that Westminster makes available to them, by the way that funding is delivered and by the regulation that restricts how it can be used. Even councils with additional powers and responsibilities delegated through devolution deals can have their hands tied by the fiscal framework they operate in. This situation has been magnified by additional financial pressures caused by Covid-19, the general impact of inflation in the economy and rapidly escalating energy costs. One of the few options open to them is the expansion of property portfolios, which some councils have pursued with gusto. This high-risk strategy has led to some disastrous results. However, the context that pressures councils to adopt this behaviour in the first place often left out of academic and journalistic criticisms of ‘financialisation’ and related market speculation

A new research project will bring a fresh perspective to this debate, by looking in detail at the system for funding and financing of local government in other countries. The Local Democracy Research Centre is working with the Kevin Muldoon-Smith at the University of Northumberland and Mark Sandford at the House of Commons Library to examine three international local government contexts – Italy, Germany, and Japan, to better understand how local governments are funded and financed in non-anglophone contexts. This is to move beyond the echo chamber of debate that can be dominated by Anglophone locations and associated systems of working.

The focus of the research is a whole-system understanding of local government finance in each country. Previous comparative work on local government funding examines small elements of the system, such as the array of functions available to local authorities, delivery of individual functions, efficiency metrics, taxation powers, borrowing powers, or local government size.  We are interested in building up a clear picture of the system as a whole, teasing out the implications for local autonomy and the scope for innovation.

Using a mixed methodology, the project will progress through several stages and outputs:

First, we will produce a comprehensive analysis of local government funding contexts in each case study country. This will include basic information on the structures in the three case study countries, the governance and constitutional context, as well as key statistics on: local authority functions, income, and expenditure; how much revenue is collected locally, and who collects it; the purpose and size of transfer grants; how much spending is ring-fenced and other limits on local discretion.

Interviews with policy makers, experts and officials within local government in each country will drive the second stage of the research. These conversations will tell us how the system actually works in practice. Key questions will include: how does the funding structure influence which functions local authorities prioritise?; how does legislation, regulation and central priorities influence local decision-making?; do central governments incentivise or discourage particular behaviours?; is there a perceived or real link between local taxation and the level of local services?; and are local taxes hypothecated to specific local services?

Finally, findings from these interviews will be situated within the context of recent political, policy and legislative changes. The data from each stage will be drawn together to create a picture of the decision space available to local authorities in each state, and which elements of the local government ecosystem that decision space depends upon.

This will enable the research to draw out lessons from the case study systems for introducing changes to the local authority finance system in England. This would assess potential system-wide effects in the English local government finance system, based on practice within the case studies, of changes to grants; local tax-raising powers; changes to functions; changes to capital finance; and changes to central-local relations.

Find out more about the Local Democracy Research Centre or get in touch with Andrew to get involved.

 



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Global Communities and society

What does the Queen’s death mean for the Commonwealth?

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The news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – The Queen, as President Macron referred to her – has been greeted by a sincere outpouring of grief around the world. Countries in the Commonwealth representing 2.5 billion people have been very much at the forefront of remembering her contribution. She was of course Queen of 14 other Commonwealth countries in addition to the UK, so the proclamation of the new King has seen the Commonwealth very much in the news.

The Commonwealth has in many ways grown up with the Queen, she pledged her support to the organisation in 1947 and became head of the Commonwealth of Nations in 1949, a role which she was committed to right up until her death. Her leadership role has been hugely important in promoting unity.

The Commonwealth brings together a very diverse group of countries from across the world in a voluntary union grounded in shared values and commitment to democracy, human rights, equality, justice and the rule of law. The organisation plays an important role in global policy making, with a particular focus on supporting its small and vulnerable members. Alongside the formal intergovernmental Commonwealth are many Commonwealth organisations bringing the peoples of the Commonwealth together, including local government through the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (CLGF). The Commonwealth Games is probably one of the most widely recognised of these.

The role of Head of the Commonwealth is not automatically conferred on the monarch. Commonwealth Heads of Government took a decision at their meeting in 2018 that King Charles III should take on the role following the death of his mother to ensure continuity. The Commonwealth itself emerged from a very difficult period of history, and as the then Prince of Wales said at the opening of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali, June 2019,

“If we are to forge a common future that benefits all our citizens, we too must find new ways to acknowledge our past”.

This is certainly a significant moment in the history of the Commonwealth. There is often confusion around whether deciding to become a republic impacts on membership of the Commonwealth. This is not the case, as we have seen most recently in the case of Barbados which remains a full and active member of the Commonwealth.

This moment in history will certainly provide an opportunity for reflection and potentially renewal. As “a global association… which believes in the tangible benefits that flow from exchanging ideas and experiences and respecting each other’s point of view.” (HM Queen Elizabeth II).

Within the Commonwealth, we have much to be grateful for because of the service and stewardship of HM Queen Elizabeth II and many truly joyous memories to treasure and celebrate. As we go forward, the potential of this network is only just beginning to be realised – socially, culturally and economically. We welcome the input and important contribution of King Charles III thus far in issues of the utmost importance to our lives and to the planet as a whole, and we look forward to his continued support in his role as Head of the Commonwealth.



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England & Wales, Global, Scotland Communities and society

The global impact of Queen Elizabeth II’s death

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Around the world, local government acts as a locus of remembrance and grief. In this week’s Global Local bulletin, we give space to the complicated legacy of colonialism and consider what it means to be a compassionate city.

Global Local bulletin: Public mourning and difficult conversations

Despite her impressive age of 96 years old, for many, the death of Queen Elizabeth II last Thursday still felt almost unexpected. Its impact has been felt far beyond the UK, unleashing intense emotions across the globe.

While in many countries the role of the British monarchy (and the legacy of the British Empire) is the subject of legitimate scrutiny, the Queen has also been recognised internationally as a symbol of lifelong public service.

In some parts of the world, royalty can feel like a relic of the past, yet as of 2022, there are still a total of 43 sovereign states in the world with a monarch as the head of state. While the previous century witnessed the end or obsolescence of several royal families, Queen Elizabeth II demonstrated a willingness to adapt the way the Monarchy worked, and in doing so she became more innovative, more accessible, and more celebrity-like – a status that sometimes felt more suited to the modern world. And for some mourners, it is doubtless her celebrity persona as a heartwarming, yet strong and enduring woman which has been the focus of global attention to her death.

There’s no denying, however, that over her 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II spearheaded the British Royal family through many significant and tactful transitions – and who knows if any other monarch would have had the same success. The world she inherited in 1952 is not the one she left in 2022. One example of this can be seen in the development of the Commonwealth – an organisation with colonial roots is now a ‘voluntary association of 56 independent and equal countries’, as described by the website. Of course, this does not remove the need for a clear-eyed assessment of the British Empire, but it does set a precedent for a better future – and for many supporters that was the life mission which the Queen unwaveringly pursued.

From a public service perspective, representatives of local government around the world have praised the Queen’s devotion. She was tasked with a lifelong commitment to embody the state, and so she rarely expressed her own personal opinions, let alone her political ones. This enabled people to project onto her their feelings about the country she represented and this too explains the intensity of the reaction to her death.

For those in public service, her dedication to putting global, country or community interests ahead of her own is a goal to strive towards, and her whole life was symbolic of that greater picture.

The Queen’s presence offered consistency throughout our lives – having been there from the very beginning for the vast majority of people currently alive on Earth. She was unarguably a central figurehead on the global playing field and someone who, without fail, showed up on both the dullest and the most extraordinary of days. During her life, she witnessed almost 100 years of global milestones, triumphs and tragedies – from the first man on the moon to the launch of the internet, and from WWII to the Covid-19 global pandemic.

In all these moments, eyes turned to her and every word of hers was recorded. So, despite the fact we all knew she wouldn’t live forever, it still feels somewhat uncanny that she won’t be here to witness the next big event. And perhaps that is another reason why her absence is being felt far and wide: because her death signifies both the impermanence of our fast-paced world and the impact that dedicated public servants can make upon it.



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England & Wales, Global, Scotland Communities and society

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II – our country’s greatest public servant

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Everyone at LGIU is deeply saddened by the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Like our members and everyone across local government, we pay tribute to the Queen’s lifetime of inspirational public service and her dedication to a global community of public servants, and of course, send our deepest condolences to the Royal Family.

Local government, like the communities it represents, is mourning Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. That mourning has both a constitutional and a human dimension. The Sovereign sits at the top of the pyramid of civic life but local government is an essential foundation within that structure and the Queen was well aware of its value.

We have heard a lot about the 15 Prime Ministers who served the Queen during her 70-year reign, but the number of council leaders and mayors who served during that time runs into the thousands.

How many civic buildings did the Queen visit, open or commemorate? How many councillors and council employees did she speak to? We cannot know. What we do know is that every single person she met will have remembered that encounter forever – and will have felt valued and affirmed by it. They will have felt the value of their work recognised and they will have seen this reflected in the Queen’s ideals of public service to which they too aspired.

The cumulative impact of this encouragement and inspiration is immeasurable.

The Queen understood the value of places. She was never a remote figure. She knew the importance of people in their communities and the value of those who lead them. She travelled tirelessly throughout her reign to meet people across the UK and the world in their own places. There is no part of the United Kingdom and very few parts of the world in which her presence was not felt.

Councils covering every part of our country are now working diligently and with great care to ensure all of our communities can mourn the loss of the Queen in the most respectful and appropriate ways possible. They will be opening books of condolence, managing public events and supporting their communities through a period of grieving.

And while many of these details will have been prepared for some time, there will be another layer of significance to this for the officers and councillors across the UK, the Commonwealth and the world as they lead their communities through this period of mourning – the human one.

The Queen has been a towering figure in our national life: for both the joyous occasions and the more sombre ones she was a unifying presence. And local government has played a pivotal role in helping communities share in those occasions by bringing people together in street parties, festivals or at times or remembrance.

Her Majesty the Queen embodied everything that local government stands for – public service and community, supporting and celebrating people and places.

In the last decade alone, we have seen some of the greatest and deepest divisions this country has ever faced – across communities and both national and local politics – but throughout it all she has remained a steadfast beacon of strength and unity.

So, it is fair to say that the Queen understood the impact of local government and civic life on the fabric of this nation. The greatest way I can think of to honour Her Majesty’s remarkable legacy is for our local (and national) public servants, up and down the country, to continue to build on her inspirational commitment to public service each and every day they carry out their vital duties.

This article was originally published in The MJ, 9th September 2022.



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Australia, England & Wales, Global, Ireland, Scotland Democracy, devolution and governance, Welfare and equalities

Call for contributions

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Stories from our Members and readers are always welcome. We’re keen to hear about your experiences, innovations and ideas for what you’d like us to cover. We’re open to any topics or ideas that you think may be interesting to your fellow local government colleagues. You can always submit ideas here or get directly in touch with us at [email protected].

Topics we’re looking for now

We’re particularly looking for stories in the next few months on:

Cost of living crisis

How is your council or voluntary sector organisation supporting families as they face rising prices of commodities and fuel? How are you supporting your own staff?

Mining communities

The impact of mining and other extraction industries (forestry, fishing, oil, etc) on local communities. How has your local authority dealt with waxing and waning populations and needs as prices rise and fall? How have communities dealt with resources playing out and the need to re-skill? What about the environmental impacts of extractive industries on local communities and eco-systems?

Short term rentals

Have short term rentals for tourism been a benefit or a boondoggle to your area?  How are you regulating short term rentals in tight housing markets?

Public toilets

Where do people go when they need to go? Public toilets have been shutting due to Covid and cost constraints. This is catching some people short, limiting their access to social, cultural and economic activities. How is your area helping people spend a penny?

Modern slavery

Modern slavery and human trafficking is a little understood issue with a huge impact on people’s lives. Local authorities can make a difference. How is your council educating staff, contractors and citizens on modern slavery and supporting potential victims?

Convening community action

How can councils convene community action? What are the actions that are supportive of community groups building on their strengths to support each other and make neighbourhoods better places to live? And how can councils make sure that this support doesn’t just mean benefits flowing to the already blessed?

Emergency management

We’ve had a series of unfortunate and largely unpredicted, unprecedented events over the past few years. Are our emergency management services up to scratch? How are councils preparing for the worst better?

Local museums and history

Local museums can be custodians of past and place while also preparing communities to face the future and make a honest reckoning with history and culture. Do you have a great local museum? How are you working with them, supporting them and shaping our current views of where we live?

Abandoned housing

Many cities are facing a house crisis and sometimes the same places have housing that’s not in use or underused? How can we match need with supply?

Support for veterans

How is your council supporting veterans with employment, social and health support? How are you working with partners?

Loneliness

Loneliness has always been a problem, one with severe emotional and health impacts. As we continue to feel the impact of the height of the pandemic and self-imposed isolation during fresh waves of Covid, how are councils and communities building on the lessons of lockdowns?

Get in touch

We have some general guidelines and tips here or get in touch, we’ll be happy to help you shape your story.

 

 



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Global Economy and regeneration, HR, workforce and communications, Personal and organisational development

Cities are leading in efforts to advance workers’ rights

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For even more on workforce planning and supporting workers and employment see our latest Global Local Bulletin.

A recently released report, issued by Local Progress, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Harvard Labor and Worklife Program, provides a comprehensive overview of how local governments in the United States have used wide-ranging aspects of their authority to advance workers’ rights. The report covers how local governments have set higher standards for their own municipal workforce, established city-level labor departments or agencies, created worker boards to institutionalize the voices of workers within local government, taken public pro-worker stances, and used policymaking, contracting, licensing, and enforcement powers to support working people. Although local authority varies tremendously among different countries, and the United States has a particularly decentralized system of government, local governments globally should consider some of the innovations described in the report.

Many local governments in the United States have passed municipal laws governing the workplace that apply to employers within their city or county’s borders. These laws are layered on top of applicable state and federal laws, which serve as a floor for working conditions. Many localities have set minimum wages higher than that required by state and federal laws. Localities also led the way in the United States in passing paid sick leave laws, which entitle workers to time off when sick, which have now been adopted in a number of states. Local governments have enacted laws protecting workers excluded from other statutes, such as platform or gig workers, domestic workers, and freelancers. They have also passed innovative laws regarding fair scheduling, as well as expansive anti-discrimination ordinances protecting LGTQ+ individuals and formerly incarcerated people, among others.

At least 20 U.S. localities have created or are creating dedicated local labor departments or agencies, including Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Saint Paul, San Francisco, Seattle,  and soon Tucson. These labor agencies have the power to enforce local workplace laws, and have brought action against large and small employers that violate local laws; for example, Seattle’s Office of Labor Standards reached a $3.4 million settlement with Uber and nearly $1 million with platform delivery company Postmates for violating a local paid sick leave law applicable to such companies.  Local labor enforcement agencies have also publicized their efforts, which has been shown to cause even greater deterrence.

Local governments can promote compliance by requiring high labor standards for city contractors, for example by paying living wages and creating systems to exclude repeat violators of workplace laws from city contracts, as the city of Somerville, Massachusetts has done. Localities that issue licenses or permits for certain kinds of businesses can also establish consequences for licensees, permit holders, and applicants with a history of labor violations. For example, the county of Santa Clara, California has a system to suspend a restaurant’s permit if it has outstanding unsatisfied wage violations. In South Korea, the city of Seoul has established a payment monitoring system that works with local banks to ensure that construction workers are paid promptly and do not experience wage theft–the practice of employers failing to pay workers the full wages to which they are legally entitled.

Recently, several cities in the U.S. have also established worker boards or councils to provide workers with a formal voice in local government. Worker boards can provide recommendations to local governments on, for example, minimum standards for workers in certain industries, local government purchasing and contracting policies, workforce development programs, tax abatement and incentive policies, economic development planning and community benefits agreements, distribution of local government funding, and workplace safety trainings. Worker boards can also be empowered to conduct hearings and conduct outreach to workers who may be hard to reach otherwise. The City of Seattle, for example, created a Domestic Workers Standards Board in 2019 when it passed its Domestic Workers Ordinance, and Detroit created a structure for establishing industry standards boards in 2021.

Some localities might be particularly interested in how they can serve as model employers in relation to their own workforces. In the United States, the so-called Great Resignation (which might more aptly be named the great upgrade) has hit local governments hard, as the sector has seen many workers leaving state and local government. And labor shortages in Australia and Ireland might also indicate that similar trends are occurring globally. In this time of uncertainty, there is a great opportunity for governments to raise labor standards for municipal workers, furthering retention, reducing turnover, and helping meet recruiting goals. A number of localities in the United States have raised the minimum wage paid to their own municipal workforce; recent examples include Atlanta, GA; Austin, TX; Jersey City, NJ; Milwaukee, WI; New Orleans, LA; North Miami Beach, FL; Tallahassee, FL; and West New York, NJ.

Finally, local government leaders can use their public platforms to demonstrate their support for working people by showing up at labor rallies and events, holding hearings, and uplifting the challenges faced by workers and their solutions in the media.

This surge in local leadership on workers’ rights should be celebrated, and yet, there remains considerable untapped potential at the local level to improve conditions for working people. The moment is ripe for local action and leadership on workers’ rights.

LiJia Gong is the policy and legal director at Local Progress. She leads the development of Local Progress’s policy and research capacity to support members, and drives the development and growth of national program areas.

Terri Gerstein is the director of the state and local enforcement project at the Harvard Labor and Worklife Program and is also a senior fellow at the Economic Policy Institute. Previously, she worked for over 17 years enforcing worker protection laws in New York State.



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