60 seconds with… Mark Lloyd
We talk to Mark Lloyd, who has been chief executive of the LGA since November 2015. Prior to taking on this role, he had been the CEO at Cambridgeshire County Council from 2008 and Durham County Council from 2005.
What are the biggest challenges facing local government in the next 12 months?
Councils and councillors deserve a standing ovation for the way they’ve prioritised activities in each and every community across the country during the last decade. Each council has just agreed a plan for the coming year which identifies the things that matter most in their area and allocated scarce resources to those things. However good the planning, there will be surprises requiring political decisions and changes of approach. Councillors won’t shy away from doing what’s necessary to provide the leadership communities require.
How is the LGA supporting councils in these tough times?
We can only be effective in our role as the national voice of local government if we are continually renewing our understanding of the issues that matter most to councils. Our work to support councils’ improvement is continually updated, but demand for leadership programmes and peer reviews have been constant. Councils are asking us to provide even more support on financial sustainability, productivity and commercialism as well as the use of technology to better serve communities. Councils tell us they value our work to highlight and disseminate the very best practice for others to emulate.
What changes will you be pressing government for in the long term?
Although the £2bn of additional funding for adult social care announced in the Spring Budget will help in the short-term, a medium- and long-term solution is needed. In many communities, housing supply and affordability remain huge issues. Freeing councils to be more active in the provision of the housing communities need remains a priority. Councillors remain concerned about the economy, skills and transport in their areas and the pressures hitting children’s services. Preparing for our nation’s future beyond the EU is also front and centre.
What do you think local government will look like by the end of this Parliament?
Councils have been the constant in local life for almost two centuries – and will be through this Parliament and very many more in the future. Some may opt to combine and others will adapt to reflect the election of combined authority mayors. And councils will be working under a different funding regime with resources drawn from council tax, business rates, fees & charges and commercially generated income.
We will continue our work to gain more fiscal freedoms for councils so they are free to make decisions about ways of generating income to meet local needs. But at their core, councillors will be elected to develop the local economy and support communities in whatever way is most effective in a particular place.
We’ve discussed the challenges, what opportunities are there for local government?
The next two years will see pretty much every aspect of our national system of government reviewed as we head to Brexit. Councils will argue strongly that responsibilities repatriated from Brussels and many existing national powers would be better placed with local elected leaders. Councillors are perfectly placed to make decisions about the ways resources are raised for public services and to make decisions about what’s needed for the economic and social sustainability of individual communities in a way that is impossible from a national perspective. All of us in local government need to press for a new and more locally empowered form of government rather than our overly centralist existing model.
How important is further devolution, and building on the agreed deals so far?
Local solutions to local issues is a sensible mantra. Councils understand their communities and the needs of local businesses. Councils are perfectly placed to provide leadership to the complete range of activities to support both, from setting high expectations for schools to driving the delivery of the skills needed to enhance competitiveness or shaping transport solutions or integrating health and social care. Councils are grabbing the baton and running fast across the whole country. We need central government to realise that, as a nation, we can achieve far more in a powerful national/local collaboration than we can through central diktat.
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