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Future of local government

As we begin to emerge from the pandemic, now more than ever local authorities need to be thinking innovatively, creatively and ambitiously about the difference they can make to everyone’s lives. Fundamental decisions must be taken now about the shape, resource and powers local authorities will need to continue to lead their places, the wider system and deliver levelling up.

There is also a window of opportunity for central government to recognise just how important councils have been throughout the pandemic, and the integral role they must play in the economic and social recovery of the country.

Future of local government, by PwC and the County Councils Network, sets out the changes needed to ensure that councils are empowered to lead the recovery, deliver social renewal and remain relevant in 2030.

“Now is the time to capitalise on the role councils can play as leaders of place and ensure they remain relevant in 2030. Local government recognises the need for change. National government needs to create the environment that allows this to happen.”

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5:35

Carolyn Williamson

Carolyn Williamson, Chief Executive, Hampshire County Council shares her perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing local government.

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A strong ambition for the future council

Through our engagement with local government chief executives and leaders, it is clear there is a collective ambition to deliver strong place leadership, have more effective engagement with communities, attract and develop a more flexible and adaptable workforce and maximise the use of technology.

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1:52

Cllr Tim Oliver

Cllr Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council and Chairman-Elect, County Councils Network, sets out his priorities for the future of local government.

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 employee rose

Place and system leadership

Effective government for a place requires a different set of skills, with place-based leadership and the ability to create and grow collaborative partnerships playing an essential role.

 collaboration rose

Community engagement

Local government needs to consider how to stay relevant to the communities it serves, prioritising the most important outcomes and pivoting resources rapidly as needed.

 people audience teamwork rose

Workforce and productivity

As many organisations move to hybrid working and assess what skills are going to be most in demand in future, it is even more important that an attractive ‘deal’ is established with the workforce in order to remain competitive in the employment market and recruit and retain the best possible talent.

 devices rose

Technology and digital

While technology has been high on the agenda for councils for a long time, only now are we beginning to see the true long-term potential of flexible working and digital connections. Councils need to build on the rapid progress achieved to date.

What type of council do you want to be?

Each council needs to make a deliberate decision about the type of council it wants to be. Our four archetypes provide a way of describing and exploring how different councils might choose a particular purpose or role to play.

Activist

The active council is bold and leads from the front, it has active engagement with government and communities and is vocal and clear on what it stands for.

Key attributes:

  • Vision and strategy to support the development of a national profile
  • Communications and engagement
  • Innovation

Influencer

The influencer council harnesses the strengths of community groups and partners, taking a step back from service delivery and focusing on convening services for the place.

Key attributes:

  • Locally visible leadership
  • Data and insight to understand issues and outcomes
  • Partnership and collaboration

Interventionist

The interventionist council takes a direct approach to tackling problems using its own resources to support the achievement of outcomes, this includes working with partners.

Key attributes:

  • Data and insight to understand issues and outcomes
  • A desire to invest capital and revenue to stimulate improved outcomes
  • Agility in decision making and focusing resources on priority issues

Provider

The provider council is ambitious yet efficient and internally focused.

Key attributes:

  • Business planning and management information
  • Deep operational delivery expertise
  • Continuous improvement and efficiency

Agenda for action

  • Local government should lead the response to the most fundamental challenges facing society. These will be both hyper-local challenges, but also the impact of global ADAPT megatrends on local people and places. Councils’ democratic mandate and closeness to their communities means they are best-placed to locally-lead efforts to rebuild the country.
  • Councils must seize the moment to rethink their role in society and fundamentally change how they operate. This includes accelerating investment in the leaders of tomorrow, taking an active role in shaping places, building more flexible working arrangements for their workforce, and embracing technology and automation in the delivery of services.
  • A more equitable relationship between national and local government is needed. Councils must see themselves, and be seen by others, as leaders in their localities. Without the local knowledge, vision, and expertise of local government, it is unlikely the levelling up agenda will be addressed successfully.
  • Whitehall must also devolve more powers and responsibilities to a local level. Government should make substantive devolved powers available at a county level in the forthcoming Levelling Up White Paper, including in skills, transport, and economic growth.
  • A long-term view must be taken when it comes to funding local government. Councils want to build on their enhanced role during the pandemic and lead the charge in addressing key issues across local economies, social care, and climate change. However, yearly increases in people needing local services, and rising costs of delivering those services, will mean councils will be required to spend an extra £15.9bn annually by 2030. Councils have no prospect of addressing the systemic problems associated with providing children’s and adult social care services, for example, unless the sustainability of its funding model is secured and funding moves away from the sporadic use of different funding pots.

Contact us

Paul  Deegan

Paul Deegan

Consulting Partner, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7903 720714

Ben Pykett

Ben Pykett

Director, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7841 786900

Erica Ballmann

Erica Ballmann

Senior Manager, Government and Public Sector, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)7903 164784

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