LGIU@40: For the future of local government

Since 1983 LGIU has supported local government with resources, new ideas and connections, helping councils to look after and serve their communities and deliver the best possible public services.

LGIU@40 is a programme of work driven by our core belief in the vital role that local democratic institutions have in creating opportunities and better places for everyone.

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NEW MANIFESTO – LGIU@40:FOR THE FUTURE OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT calls for immediate local government reforms and a new covenant between central and local government.

LGIU’s 40th anniversary has come at a critical juncture for local government. Longstanding problems such as pressure on finance and increased demand for services and on infrastructure are butting up against more existential threats to communities like climate change, populism and unregulated, poorly understood technology.

While utilising our unrivalled experience of working with local government to drive our LGIU@40 campaign, this work has been very much a programme for the future. Identifying three core themes – finance, participation and trust – we have worked extensively with our members and the wider sector to develop a set of new ideas for how local government could work better in the future. The manifesto we developed through this extensive consultation provides a blueprint of the steps required to create the firm foundations that local government needs to help communities navigate the challenging times we face.

While the LGIU began life as an English-based membership organisation, we now support local government across the UK, Ireland and Australia with thousands of staff and local elected representatives using our services every day.

The LGIU@40 campaign speaks to challenges that communities everywhere have to contend with. From populism and climate change to economic crisis and rapidly evolving technology, solutions and opportunities will be created locally. We need to ensure that we have a thriving local democracy and a sustainable local government sector to meet the future head-on.

Read Jonathan Carr-West’s white paper, introducing the ideas behind this programme of work.

The big questions

What if local government was funded properly?

What if people really participated in local democracy?

What if central government trusted local government to do its job?

What if people trusted democratic institutions again?

Why is local government the answer?

LGIU@40

A framework of five big questions provides the focus for LGIU@40. The programme builds on LGIU projects and research, but it has been augmented, informed, and shaped by a series of evidence-gathering conversations and roundtable discussions. Throughout the summer, we worked extensively with our members and the wider sector on a set of new ideas for how local government could work better in the future.

Programme activity

On the rest of this page you will discover a snapshot of the work that we have undertaken to support the LGIU@40 campaign, including contributions from some of our member councils.

What if local government was funded properly?

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LGIU@40 Collection: Finance

This curated collection of key outputs from the LGIU includes latest research, in-depth policy briefings, think pieces and contributions from LGIU members. It provides a snapshot of our recent work pertaining to local government finance and funding, one of the core LGIU@40 themes. Explore this collection.

Funding systems for local government – international comparisons

The LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre is running a comparative project, in partnership with the University of Northumbria, exploring how council funding works in different countries: the UK, Italy, Germany and Japan. The research will build up a detailed picture of qualitative experiences of local government finance in different places. Reports on the UK and Germany have been published and Italy and Japan follow soon. Find out more and read the latest reports.

Crisis in local government finances - Dr Peter Eckersley

Watch the LGIU@40 symposium session with Dr Peter Eckersley, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Management, Nottingham Trent University and Managing Editor, Local Government Studies.

The state of local government finance in England

For 12 years LGIU has been surveying chief executives, directors of finance and council leaders in England to throw a spotlight on how they view the state of council finances. This year the survey forms part of a much wider research project supporting our LGIU@40 programme. Explore this project.

It is time for the UK government to fix the broken funding system?

Cllr Ray Morgon, Leader of the London Borough of Havering, calls for serious and urgent discussion and reform of the system for funding local government in England, arguing that many well-run councils will start to go to the wall because of the current unsustainable system. Read this article.

Vlog: What if local government were funded properly?

In this 10-minute video explainer, LGIU’s Chief Executive, Jonathan Carr-West and Dr Greg Stride from the Local Democracy Research Centre discuss the state of local government finance in England and explore how things could be done differently by drawing on international comparisons. Watch this vlog.

Global Local: Local government finance

This edition of LGIU’s Global Local newsletter (22 November) focused on the LGIU@40 finance theme. It rounds up LGIU resources as well as overviews of work being done on this subject by other organisations. Read Global Local.

Funding the future of local government, an Australian perspective

Communities and governments worldwide face a challenging future due to inflation, inequality, disruptive technology, geopolitical tensions, and climate change. In this briefing, Professor Richard Eccleston from the University of Tasmania unpacks the increasingly challenging issue of local government funding in Australia. Read the briefing (free with sign-in).

The South Tyneside Pledge: the power of many

Cllr Tracey Dixon, Leader of South Tyneside Council, shares the details of South Tyneside’s Pledge, a new community wealth-building project which, at just 18 months old, has already boosted the borough’s economy by £3m. How have they done it? This article takes a look. Read this article.

Global Local Executive Panel: Finding long-term financial sustainability

In May, together with the Victorian Local Government Association (VLGA), we brought together senior executives from Ireland, the UK and Australia to explore the long-term financial sustainability and stability of local government. Watch a recoding of the discussion.

What if people really participated in local democracy?

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What if people really participated in local democracy?

Questions around participation are fundamental to the future of local government. LGIU’s chief executive Jonathan Carr-West looks at the integral role of effective participation and how we can improve democratic engagement. Read the article.

LGIU@40 Collection: Participation

Participation is the cornerstone of our democracy and, by extension, local government and its mandate. With turnout at local elections often low and disengagement with traditional politics on the rise it really is time to look at how people can be encouraged and facilitated to participate in democratic decision-making in many different ways. This collection explores the challenges and the possibilities.

The impact of voter ID

The LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre – funded by the JRSST-CT – has conducted significant research into the recent implementation of voter ID in the UK. Based on in-depth research with the people who run elections it raises serious issues with the UK’s electoral infrastructure, finding that voter ID has introduced a series of new pressures to a sector already under severe strain. Find out more about this work and read the full report.

Declining trust and participation - Dr Hannah Bunting

Watch the LGIU@40 symposium session with Dr Hannah Bunting, Lecturer in Quantitative British Politics, University of Exeter.

Solutions for local government participation: Dr Madeleine Pill FHEA

Watch the LGIU@40 symposium session with Dr Madeleine Pill FHEA – Senior Lecturer Urban Studies and Planning, University of Sheffield.

Solutions for local government participation: Liz Richardson

Watch the LGIU@40 symposium session with Liz Richardson, Professor of Public Administration at the University of Manchester

Building democratic support for local climate action

The LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre partnered with Browne Jacobson to investigate local government’s democratic leadership on climate action. The research explores how councils are building consensus and support among local communities for big decisions around decarbonisation, as well as the challenges of doing so in the context of a rising cost of living and other pressures on council budgets. Read the final report.

Could electronic voting drive more effective participation?

Ian Cowie, CEO of the City of Gosnells challenges to consider the benefits of introducing electronic voting. Some people will hate the idea, others will think it the only sensible solution to reversing decreasing voter turnout. What’s your opinion? Read the article.

Practical tips to get the most out of your community engagement

As councils across Australia are experiencing financial pressures, SGS Economics and Planning’s Liz Webster suggests practical tips that councils can employ to optimise community engagement processes – reducing costs while still meeting community and legislative expectations. Read here.

Rethinking a plural, participatory ‘local state’

Dr Madeleine Pill discusses the state-society relationships of local governance and the need for better engagement between local governments and citizens. This article focuses on creating participatory spaces through institutional innovations, which broaden the range of agency, expertise and resources available to care for place. Read here.

What’s the point of decentralisation? Innovation, entrepreneurialism, and democratic engagement in the US

Professor Joanie Willett explores how decentralisation has improved the relationship between local governments and their citizens in two Appalachian communities. Read the article.

Global Local: Young people and democracy

This edition of Global Local examines young people’s view of democracy and how local government can better engage our youngest citizens. Read the newsletter here.

What if central government trusted local government to do its job?

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Crisis in local-central government relations: Professor Patrick Diamond

Watch the LGIU@40 symposium session with Professor Patrick Diamond, Professor of Public Policy and Director, Mile End Institute, Queen Mary, University of London

The future of social care in Scotland

In response to the Scottish government’s proposed national care service plan, LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre worked with partners at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Care to investigate the potential implications. Based on conversations with senior decision-makers, this research explores this issue from the local government perspective. Read the report.

The mechanics of devolving power

Building on a framework of dimensions of autonomy, Mark Sandford, Senior Researcher at the House of Commons Library, looks at the mechanisms and processes that need to be in place to devolve and decentralise power. The analysis focusses on English local government, but the framework has wider implications. Read the article.

What has happened to the trust between the UK’s central and local government?

Cllr Baggy Shanker, Leader of Derby City Council, reflects on the deterioration of central and local government relationships over the last five years. In the midst of unprecedented challenges facing councils, he argues the financial and time-draining nature of central government checkpoints only adds to, not eases, the pressure on local government. Read the article.

Are we living in an age of post-trust politics?

What happens when we no longer trust our governments? Or when civic institutions no longer trust each other? Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGIU looks at declining trust levels and how local government can re-build trust. Read the article.

What if people trusted democratic institutions again?

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LGIU@40 Collection: Trust

Are we living in an age of post-trust politics? This collection brings together some of LGIU’s work on trust; it looks at why trust is so important to good governance and to public service delivery, examines the consequences of a “trust deficit”, and considers how trust can be rebuilt. Explore the collection.

Trust: the ultimate currency

Cllr Lorna Fielker, Deputy Leader at Southampton City Council, explores the value of trust in local government and how it is perhaps undervalued despite being critical to achieving aspirations. Is it time to ask tough questions about the mistrust running through the sector and our communities? Read the article.

UK attitudes the work of councillors and role of local government: Keiran Pedley

Watch the LGIU@40 symposium session with Keiran Pedley, Research Director, Public Affairs, Ipsos.

The changing role of the monitoring officer

This report from the LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre looks at the role of the monitoring officer in English local government – hugely important to trust and good governance – and makes recommendations for changes to improve the status and effectiveness of the position. Read the report.

The core principles of trust applied to local government

Dr Hannah Bunting, lecturer in Quantitative British Politics at the University of Exeter, outlines the core principles of trust, applying them to the context of local governance and Dr Greg Stride adds some additional insights from the LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre’s recent work. Read the article.

Inclusive local economies

Working the Centre for Local Economic Strategies, the LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre has been looking at the potential to create stable local economies that support strong social and environmental outcomes without economic growth. Read the report.

Trust me, I work in local government

Chris Elliott, Chief Executive at Warwick District Council reflects on a 40-year career in local government and the importance of reversing the declining levels of trust in councils going forward. Read the article.

Keep up to date with LGIU@40

Stay up-to-date as this work progresses and don’t miss the chance to take part in any LGIU@40 events – sign up for your free LGIU newsletter today.