Post-Covid Councils

How will Covid-19 change the world?

It’s too early to know of course, but there’s no shortage of predictions being offered up out there.

Some suggest that it will bring a sea change in state investment, an increased valuing of key workers, a recognition of the importance of social care and a reset on social values and sustainability, with new thinking about growth and what really matters to us.

Others fear we may see another decade of austerity, excessive centralisation, increased surveillance and control, an exacerbation of existing economic and educational inequalities, a neglect of less visible services and increasing nationalism and isolationism.

But none of this is set in stone – there are choices to be made. We should be making the argument now for the world we want to live in on the other side of this pandemic.

For local government this is both a fundamental and an urgent question.


Hear from Dr Susan Banducci of University of Exeter talking about her new research on communications, trust and local democracy and LGIU’s Ingrid Koehler on new research on councillors view on official public health information, disinformation and how we can rebuild trust. Register here.

Councils across the world are battling heroically to support communities through the crisis, whilst worrying that they will be left with millions of pounds of shortfall in their budgets. At the same time they are planning for recovery and thinking about the sorts of institutions they need to evolve into.

These debates will unfold over many months but we are beginning the groundwork now to ensure that we establish the right narrative pathways.

This framework is intended to help local authorities ask a set of structured questions about how we emerge from the immediate crisis.

It’s not intended to replace detailed recovery planning but to help place that planning within an overall context so that we can begin to imagine the shape of local government post-Covid.

We are populating this framework with a range of contributions, from briefings to blog posts, from podcasts to academic research. We begin our exploration with sustainable futures: can we rethink the economic, environmental and social values that have brought us to this point and create policies that will help establish a fairer, cleaner, greener future for our society?

We hope this Post-Covid Councils project will build over the next few months into a detailed account of how future local government will function.  Below are the six pillars that will form the backbone of the work and we need your insight to help shape this discussion, let us know how you would like to be involved here.

1. The location of power

The Covid-19 pandemic shows that we need collaboration at international level and strategic national leadership. But it also demonstrates a vital role for local government and for community action.

  • What can we learn about the appropriate levels of power and decision making?
  • Does this crisis shed any new light on how power should be exercised at different levels and why?
  • How do we play these lessons forward into the debate on devolution/levelling up?
  • What are the dangers of excessive centralisation? How do we resist this?
  • How do we measure the mission creep of centralisation? What are appropriate yardsticks for marking changes to devolution and centralisation? How would we know if localism was working?
  • How do we make the case for a cosmopolitan localism; a connected localism that is outward-looking and open, not nativist or isolationist?

Coronavirus and the risk of hypercentralisation after the crisis

In response to the coronavirus crisis the state is expanding enormously. This has big potential implications for the post-crisis future, including increased centralisation. Read this briefing

Why localism and globalism can and must go together

following the launch of LGiU Australia, our CEO Jonathan Carr-West takes us through one of our core values – a belief that localism and globalism can and must go together. Read this briefing.

Democracy deferred? Elections and engagement during and after the Covid-19 pandemic

This collection of content reflects on how the pandemic has effected discourse and decision-making – the consequences of cancelling elections and the consequences of carrying them out, and the blurring lines between authoritarian and liberal democracy. Read this bundle.

2. Sustainable Futures

LGIU’s Sustainable Futures theme, as part of our Post-Covid Councils project, aims to highlight the practical and pressing opportunities open to local government and its partners in building a cleaner, greener, more sustainable and ultimately fairer future for all.

Topics we plan to cover range from energy reforms, transition towns, employment, tourism, wellbeing, place – shaping, resilience and much more. We will be working in collaboration with our members and others through briefings, blogs, case studies including international examples and events to develop a long-term strategic vision about how to best support a sustainable future for councils and the communities they serve.

Post-Covid Councils: Sustainable Futures

LGIU’s Sustainable Futures theme, as part of our Post-Covid Councils project, aims to highlight the practical and pressing opportunities open to local government and its partners in building a cleaner, greener, more sustainable and ultimately fairer future for all.

Post-Covid Councils: building a sustainable future

Kim Fellows, LGIU’s commissioning editor in Scotland, introduces pillar two of our Post-Covid Councils framework, looking at how we build a sustainable and fair future for all. Read this blog post.

Strategic recovery planning – early considerations for place-shaping post-Covid-19

This briefing considers local authorities’ approaches to medium and long-term ‘strategic recovery planning’ of their cities, towns and communities in the immediate aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, and suggests possible frameworks for strategic recovery planning. Read this briefing.

This changes everything: Policy implications of Covid-19

When in the eye of the storm it is difficult to think beyond the immediate pressure, but when the pandemic has abated it will be important to reflect and learn lessons that will make us better prepared and more resilient for the future. Read this briefing.

Local government and Covid-19: the economic impact

It is clear that Covid-19 is already having a profound impact on economies globally and nationally. We consider here the negative effects on jobs, regions, sectors and individuals. We also consider possible future implications for public spending and social and economic equality. Read this briefing.

Local government’s Latest Challenge: Combatting Climate Change

This briefing looks at how the councils who have recently declared a ‘Climate Emergency’ can start to consider the next steps that they will take. It focuses on initiatives that have been implemented in Europe; specifically in Scandinavian countries and France. Read this briefing.

Utilising local authority powers to address climate change and build more resilient communities

This briefing explores climate change predictions for the UK, questioning the implications change will have on both people and places, before considering the benefits of utilising local-authority-run services in order to address this crisis and build more resilient communities. Read this briefing

3. Place and community

Read the Place and Community page. What have we learned about place and community? The immediate danger of Covid-19 seems to have generated a degree of community spirit and common endeavour, seen in everything from mutual aid groups to clapping for carers. Will this continue as the pandemic drags on and the economic impact begins to bite.

On the flip side the impacts of the pandemic have not been equally spread with BAME people and deprived communities affected most severely. Will we start to confront these inequalities or will Covid merely enhance pre-pandemic levels of social injustice?

  • Do we pull together or fall apart?
  • What have been the levers of community in this time and what can we learn?
  • This is a shared event but with different experiences: how do we learn and apply lessons from the impacts to all communities and groups?
  • What concrete things can be done to support place and community cohesion into the future? Are there mechanisms, structures, institutions etc, at the local and national level that we can draw on, develop or create?

Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 years on

What has happened to health inequalities since 2010? The Health Foundation’s important report ‘Health Equity in England’ provides an update ten years after the original Marmot review. The report analyses what has changed and recommends a national cross-government health inequalities strategy to tackle the social determinants of health. Read this briefing.

Covid-19: It’s not equal in the end

Black and minority ethnic people and the poor are dying in disproportionate numbers from Covid-19. As the evidence mounts by the day will this pandemic mark a sea change in policy to tackle health inequalities in the future? Read this briefing.

Identity, Communities, Regeneration: sense of place in local government

In this piece, Janet Sillett looks at what makes a place a place, what makes some places work and others not, how councils chart the story of their places and respond to the changes that inevitably happen. Read this briefing.

All in this together? The impact of Covid-19 on different places

This briefing looks at two reports that came out in May, after the UK had endured over a month of unprecedented rupture caused by the lockdown. The reports both look at place – rather than what the economic impact is they examine the ‘where’. Read this briefing.

Covid-19 statistics: a route map through complexity

This briefing is intended as a route map through the main sources of information on the Covid-19 epidemic, which provide the data required to assess progress towards the government’s tests for easing lockdown. Read this briefing.

Local government and Covid-19: issues for disadvantaged groups

Early on in lockdown, this briefing examined some of those groups who, it was becoming clear, were facing the most severe consequences from Covid-19 – suffering a disproportionate impact, both in the UK and globally. Read this briefing.

Community engagement during Covid-19

This briefing provides examples of a diverse range of democratic, service and digital innovations introduced by local governments in Australia to address the unprecedented changes to community life caused by efforts to control the spread of Covid-19. Read this briefing.

Carnegie UK’s Guiding Principles for Recovery

What principles should underpin recovery? The Carnegie Trust has set out a route map to recovery, focusing on community engagement and empowerment and this briefing summarises the it and considers the wider context – what are the key questions we need to be asking about effective engagement and empowerment in the recovery and beyond. Read this briefing.

4. Unfinished business

Local government was in crisis even before Covid-19 struck. All the challenges local government faced pre-Covid  – social care, sustainable finance etc. – are only getting worse while attention is focused on this crisis. Now, Covid-19 may leave councils across the country at risk of financial failure.

  • What needs to happen post-Covid to fix this and what damage has been done in the meantime?
  • How can we ensure that less visible or popular services like community mental health do not get left behind?

View our Unfinished Business publication here.

5. Trust and governance


Covid-19 landed in a world in which levels of trust in institutions and faith in democratic processes were already eroding. We are at the point where fears of  decline are crystallising to signs of demise. This poses profound challenges to political and public life that need immediate action to counter.


  • How can democratically accountable institutions restore trust?
  • In a world of networked news, how can institutions fight against misinformation and disinformation?
  • How has the Covid-19 crisis changed the role and perception of institutions and elected representatives?
  • What is the role of expertise and evidence in political decision making? How has the crisis highlighted the tension between advisors and deciders?
  • Have the people lost faith in democracy? If so, what do we do to remind them of the power and value of government by the people, for the people?

Trust in public institutions

LGIU briefing on three new reports from the John Smith Centre: Since the 2008 financial crisis there has been a decline in political support and trust in key institutions but the data suggests that talk of a “crisis of trust” appears to be over-exaggerated. However, looking deeper at the numbers different parts of the polity have different levels of trust with our civic institutions.

Keynote presentation at the 2017 LGNSW Annual Conference

Jonathan Carr-West spoke at the LGNSW Annual Conference in 2017. There, he gave a keynote presentation and answered questions about this address. View here.

6. Towards a new municipalism

Responding to these challenges means that councils will have to change. We need a new form of municipalism for the twenty-first century. Not just about bureaucracies but about relationships. Not just about bricks and mortar but about a new social architecture that we are all part of.

  • What is the role of local government in the future? Services? Economic growth? Or a more expansive idea of place-leadership and wellbeing?
  • How should councils emerge as institutions?
  • What different forms of working and of organisational culture do we need?
  • How do councils function as institutions in a networked world?
  • How can local authorities be more embedded within their communities and build community resilience?

Disconnected Communities: could direct democracy be the path to a more representative form of politics?

Across Europe there has been a rise in the number of people who feel excluded from mainstream political decision-making. With this in mind, we explore ‘direct democracy’ and question whether this could be a tool for local authorities to build more representative, trusted and cohesive models of governance. Read this briefing.

Deliberative Democracy in Belgium: The introduction of a citizen’s council

This briefing follows a previous LGIU report into local government in Belgium that analysed the levels of decentralisation in the country’s political infrastructure. This report will consider the recent history of citizen’s assemblies across Europe, developments within Belgium, and considerations towards future use. Read this briefing.

Get involved

We need your insight and experience as we develop scenarios and support for our member councils. There are many ways to get involved and shape the discussion – from online events to sharing your own case studies and think pieces to share with LGIU Members and Followers. Let us know how you would like to be involved and which topics you are most interested in.

Create your own user feedback survey