It’s the (local) economy, stupid
Local government is at a crucible moment, an existential crisis.
The last ten years have been characterised by declining resources and increasing demands. Councils have risen to the challenge admirably and with passion to protect the most vital services.
Yet the last six months has changed them beyond recognition. The immediacy of the public health crisis has resulted in a renewed focus on activity and changed priorities over what was important.
And the challenge not only continues but is becoming even greater. More than ever communities are expecting their local representatives to be bolder and take decisions that place at their heart the economic and social wellbeing of their areas.
Some are stepping up; some do not yet feel they have the capacity to do so. The latter is not an option, however.
Councils will be at the heart of driving local renewal. They know the sectoral strengths of their economy and business and are uniquely placed, if they choose, to be of the solution and not an inhibitor to it.
There are great examples of this happening already.
The London Borough of Hounslow, with its partners, pro-actively commissioned an independent report from Oxford Economics to provide intelligence on the devastating impact on communities caused by reduced activity at Heathrow.
The Council has used this to formulate policy responses including support for micro-businesses, innovation districts and hosting the first ever national Aviation Communities Summit next week, specifically designed to spotlight their communities. An Aviation Communities Task Force will be launched and the campaign for an Aviation Communities Fund is being taken to the heart of government.
In Barking & Dagenham, the Council is clear on its ambition to level up in East London, build new homes and secure significant infrastructure investment along the A13. It is engaging with other public and private sector bodies to make a compelling case for its priorities.
The point here is this. Councils face an existential choice in the months and years ahead. To choose to adapt, be pro-growth supporting enterprise, investment and being easy to do business with or not. Those that do will reap the benefits. Naturally, resources are constrained, and the public health crisis necessitates an ongoing response. But our Councils are more than emergency response.
And they mustn’t wait to act now, and ensure that living with and coming through, a public health crisis is met immediately with a decisiveness of leadership and conviction on economic renewal.
Sean Anstee is the Executive Director for Advisory, Public Affairs & PR at Cratus. You can find out more about the Aviation Communities Summit being held on 24th November by visiting www.aviationcommunities.co.uk