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The challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, responding to welcoming new arrivals from Ukraine, as well as opportunities such as the Levelling Up agenda continue to demonstrate the critical importance of local government. Here at the Local Government Association (LGA), we consistently make the case for local action and leadership, ensuring that Government hears why it is so important that councils have a leading role in responding to issues on the ground.
We work with councils to demonstrate to Government that when local councils can lead, there are better outcomes for our communities.
In the video below, our Chairman Councillor James Jamieson welcomes all new councillors to the Local Government Association.
- Video transcript
I’m James Jamieson, I’m Chairman of the Local Government Association. First of all, can I say ‘welcome’! Congratulations on becoming a councillor. I have found it incredibly interesting, at times exciting, admittedly at times frustrating, but a real opportunity to make a difference to your community. The Local Government Association is your body. We represent all councils and all councillors in England and Wales, and we’re here to help you do the best job that you can do for your residents.
So what does that mean? Well, what we do are basically three or four key things. The first one is that we support councils and councillors. But we offer far, far more than that in terms of training. Whether it’s specialist training on something like SEND (special educational needs and disability) or planning, or whether it’s just general supportive training of you as a councillor, but also for council officers.
We also have a big improvement offering and some of you may have heard about things like peer challenges where we go to a council for three, four or five days and look at the council overall; or look at, say, children’s services or planning or even communications – and work with the council and make recommendations of how that they might improve.
We also work with Government and review all legislation that’s going through Parliament to look at how that will impact local councils and our residents and how we might change it for the better. In the same way, we lobby and push for changes that will be helpful – a recent example being around exempt accommodation where, you may be aware, that there are certain rogue landlords who are taking advantage of this and Government is now looking at this and will improve the situation which will help both some of our most vulnerable people, but also save money.
We also are your body in central London, so if you’re ever in central London, please come to the LGA. We’re in Smith Square. We have a councillors’ lounge upstairs. We have a beautiful balcony which on a sunny day like today is fantastic. We also have a series of boards that cover things from the environment through to community wellbeing, children’s services, transport, city and regions boards and they set the policy and they debate where is it that the LGA should be going.
What should new councillors know about the LGA? Well the first thing you should know is – it’s your LGA. We’re here to help you. So if you have an issue or a query or don’t understand something, and feel that you and your colleagues might need some extra support, there is almost certainly somebody at the LGA who will have been there, done that, seen that, who can help. But we’d also like you to get involved in the LGA. You don’t have to be a member to turn up at some of these meetings. So, every six to eight weeks we have a councillors’ forum which anyone is welcome to attend.
I’ve been a councillor now since 2009. It’s been an immensely rewarding role. The things that you can do for your community as a councillor with persistence, patience and cooperation with others, are fantastic. Now that may be something major like getting a road built, or a leisure centre. Or it may be something immensely important to the person involved, like helping get a child into a school, helping getting a family into a better home or supporting one of our most vulnerable elderly people into better accommodation or getting the care that they need. It’s a whole variety of things, but you can make a real difference on the individual basis and also on a wider basis. But. And this is my big but – you can’t do it alone. We work as a team and therefore it’s really important that you work with others across the political divide often, work with officers and that you’re persistent and patient. Unfortunately nothing gets done overnight but it’s amazing how much change you can make if you apply yourself to it.
What I have learnt as a councillor and what I didn’t necessarily appreciate the first time round, particularly if you come from the corporate world, is it’s different. That doesn’t mean it’s better or worse. It’s just different. And there are lots of dedicated people and the vast majority of the people that you will meet really want to make a change for the better and are very passionate about their own area, whether it’s adults whether it’s highways, whether it’s parks. So if you can engage and work as a team, you can really achieve things. And if you can leave the politics behind at the local level and work with your colleagues, you’re going to achieve far more than if you’re adversarial and are always trying to make political points. Getting things done is about working with people not against people.
The best part of being a councillor is being able to look back and say ‘I’ or in many cases ‘we made a difference’, and there are many, many stories that I and others can relate to about making a difference. And some of them are not major. I was talking to one of my local councillors and she had managed to get two sets of dropped kerbs in. And you think, but hey, so what? But actually that meant that one of her residents, who was wheelchair-bound could go from his house 300 metres from the centre of his town to the town and have a cup of coffee. That was life-changing to him, even so, on the surface – a couple of dropped kerbs? No. You can make a real difference. And just making small changes can sometimes make big benefits to people.
I’m a passionate believer in local. Every part of the country is different, it has different problems, different issues. You will know your area far better than anybody in Whitehall and, therefore, the more we can do locally, the more decisions we can make locally, the better it’s going to be for your community. And that’s why we’re here – to serve our communities. Every day I speak to Government and I am saying, local government will deliver better than Whitehall. Doing it locally is always best.
Welcome on board, we need as many good councillors as we can possibly get, making a difference for our communities locally.
The LGA is a politically led, cross-party organisation that works on behalf of councils to ensure local government has a strong, credible voice with national government. We aim to influence and set the political agenda on the issues that matter to councils so they are able to deliver local solutions to national problems. We provide a range of practical support to enable local authorities to exploit the opportunities that this approach to improvement provides.
We work closely with councils to ensure that we continue to deliver the support that you need, and this is reflected in our 2022/23 sector support offer for councils. You can find out more about the work we do and the support we offer, such as development and learning opportunities available to you, through this hub. We hope you find this helpful in the important role you have as a councillor and do make the most of the resources we have to offer.
Our councillor e-learning platform and councillor workbooks offer valuable information on a range of topics relevant to councillors across a range of policy areas. We also suggest you browse our councillor development programmes Leadership Essentials and Focus on Leadership – and our councillor development resources.
Our four political groups – Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat and Independent – also keep councillors abreast of political news and events.