24th November 2022
Civica’s Paul Bradbury looks at the key issues leading the way for the future of local government
What happens when you take a group of local government Chief Executives and leaders of the future out of their day jobs for a few hours to think about the big trends of the future? I can tell you: it’s fascinating discussions, the odd disagreement and shared frustrations and aspirations, which all lead to some very interesting debates.
Working with our long-term partner Solace, we’re setting out to discuss what our future local government might look like in 2032 and how we can all prepare for this. The first point of call was our recent workshop, where we brought together Chief Executives and aspiring leaders on Solace’s Springboard programme to look to the future and identify key megatrends we’ll need to address.
It's understandably easy for senior leaders in local government to be so engrossed in the day-to-day business and pressures of their roles, so taking just a few hours out to think about the bigger picture can make all the difference. And in these times of such political, economic and environmental uncertainty, it’s even more vital.
To get the debate going, we played a game of provocations to get to the heart of difficult questions and dilemmas. From ‘What if it was mandated that all urban centres must be vehicle free?’ to ‘What if support for vulnerable people had to come from the wider community and not the state?’, there was plenty of lively and thought-provoking debate. We also talked about some topics which, if we’d had the discussion even a year ago, may not have been so high up the agenda such as food security.
It’s difficult to narrow down the huge range of issues and opportunities which local government will see in the future. While the current Chief Executives were more focussed on issues such as the changing workforce and skills, and service delivery to meet changing demand, the Springboard cohort were more focused on placemaking, emerging technologies, and harnessing the power of communities and participation.
But common themes did emerge – there is a real energy to use data more effectively to deliver smarter services and improved environments for citizens – all with environmental goals at the heart.
It’s really interesting to hear the views of people from different levels of local government. It's important that it's not either/or, it's about all of us working together to understand those differences, what contributes to them and the value of those differences. All of these things together help build the bigger picture of how we will live in the future.
It's vital to have these discussions: if we don't challenge the way we currently do things, we'll always end up with the same solutions which will very quickly date and not be fit for purpose. Technology, people and organisations are evolving so quickly that if we don't adapt too, we're all collectively missing a big opportunity.
And this is just the beginning. The future local government sessions we have in the pipeline will no doubt throw up new topics which will challenge us further. We’re really looking forward to the debate to come and helping to put new ideas into action…