At the Local Government Association’s annual conference, Secretary of State Michael Gove has praised the work done by local government through what has been a tough couple of years for the nation.
With the Covid-19 pandemic hitting in the spring of 2020, current events abroad and the rising cost-of-living, local councils are playing a key role in ensuring that the nation overcomes the challenges it is facing.
In his speech yesterday (28th June), Gove said:
“Every single one of the major challenges we now face as a country depends on local government. Whether it’s levelling up and tackling inequality, helping the most vulnerable deal with inflationary pressures, reaching net zero, providing out citizens with safe, affordable, warm, decent homes, protecting and enhancing nature, tackling poor health or supporting those who needs social care as our population ages. Without local government playing a leading role, we cannot meet those challenges.”
Gove also went on to talk about how the pandemic showed the strength of local government, using examples such as Swindon Council who used their railway station as a vaccination centre, Oxfordshire pooling resources between the county council and district councils to ensure there was a coherent approach to compliance and enforcement of Covid restrictions, or Oldham, who worked alongside community leaders to address hesitations over vaccinations.
One of the government’s major initiatives at the moment is that of levelling up. Reducing inequality across the nation, providing better opportunities, and improving the chances open to those from disadvantaged backgrounds is something that every local council has been urged to get behind, as the second phase of funding is underway.
Gove spoke about the importance of the Levelling Up White Paper, and the power that it is giving to local governments to get the work done that will benefit civilians the most. He said:
“It’s not enough to just acknowledge local government’s achievements, we need to ensure local government has more power to make a difference. Power should always and everywhere be exercised as close to the people as possible. Devolution, decentralisation, decisions made by accountable local leaders, that is the path to democratic renewal – the real taking back control.
That’s why the Levelling Up White Paper puts strengthening local leadership and local communities at the heart of our mission to reverse the persistent geographic inequalities which hold back communities across the United Kingdom.”
Whilst also celebrating the importance of local government, Gove also spoke about a new body that the government are creating. The Office for Local Government will “shine a light on how local authorities are performing and delivering.” Being able to track the performance of local government has the potential to be a positive step, as it starts to ensure that nowhere is left behind, something that the levelling up funding is trying to address, but could also help contribute to, should councils not bid for, or receive funding for crucial developments.
PSE will be hosting a Public Sector Levelling Up Virtual Event on 17 November. Join us for the full day event by registering here.