Build Back Local: Councils set out post-pandemic recovery vision

  • At its virtual Annual Conference, the Local Government Association (LGA) launches its Build Back Local campaign to demonstrate the vital role councils must be able to play to help communities recover from the devastating social and economic impact of the pandemic.
  • By working together as equal partners, local and central government can achieve our shared ambition to level up communities that feel left behind by investing in people and transforming places across all parts of the country.
  • Ahead of the forthcoming Spending Review, initial LGA analysis shows councils face average extra annual cost pressures of £2.5 billion just to maintain services at their current level of access and quality.
  • However, it not just about money – devolving and empowering local government in areas such as education, special educational needs and disabilities, skills and planning can deliver more for our residents and communities.

During the coronavirus crisis, central and local government have shown what can be achieved when they work together towards a shared goal.

The Government’s national strategy to tackle the pandemic coordinated the effort to protect jobs and businesses, roll-out vaccines and provide information to the public. But it is local government that has turned this plan into a reality on the ground through local responses recognising different local needs and impacts across all of the country’s diverse communities.

Councillors provided local leadership, supported by exceptional and dedicated council staff. Alongside colleagues in the health service, they are among the true heroes of the pandemic.

They have protected millions of the most vulnerable and supported businesses in our communities with various grants and financial support. Through Everyone In and other programmes, councils worked at exceptional pace and got over 37,000 people into safe accommodation.

Local contact tracing, led by Directors of Public health and their teams helped minimise the spread of the virus in our local places, with surge testing vital in helping us to confront new COVID variants. Alongside the NHS, councils have also played a key role in the vaccination roll-out.

At this week’s Virtual Annual Conference – which will see more than 1,600 local government leaders, councillors and ministers come together to discuss the most pressing issues facing our country – the LGA is publishing its Build Back Local paper, exploring a series of ‘pen portraits’ to give a resident-centred view of local services and explore the future journeys our residents will be taking.

Imagined reflections based on the experiences of people across the country, they show how children, local business owners, those looking for work or to upskill, our neighbours, family, and friends all use and rely on council services on a daily basis.

If we are to truly to come out of this pandemic with a society that’s levelled up and that works for all, the LGA said councils’ work will have to be at the heart of it. The process of levelling up must be one that is tackled from the bottom up, led by local councils who are best placed to bring together partners to tackle the challenges facing their communities.

The Government has provided a significant financial package of support so far to help councils meet extra cost pressures and some of the income losses they have faced as a result of the pandemic. The LGA said long-term investment in local services is also vital to our national economic and social recovery and to ensure councils can continue to make a positive difference to their residents’ lives, help reduce pressures on the rest of the public sector and save money for the public purse.

Early LGA analysis ahead of the forthcoming Spending Review shows that councils face average annual cost pressures of £2.5 billion to maintain services at their current level of access and quality – almost half of this total is related to adult social care demand and cost pressures.

Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman, said:

“The past 18 months have been incredibly difficult for our communities, as well as being a defining point in our country’s history. In this time the value of local leadership has been evident.

“The COVID crisis has shown what we can achieve when Government enables councils to innovate and create new services locally. As we look towards the next phase, it is vital that councils are backed to lead the recovery and support our communities as we learn to live with the virus.

“Levelling up cannot just be a political slogan. It has to mean a radical reset of the relationship between central and local that leads to real change for people’s lives. As we come through the most difficult period many of us have ever faced, our communities cannot afford us to miss this vital opportunity to build back local.”