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UK Forum: The importance of cross country Local Government working

Reflections

Last week I had the privilege of attending the UK Forum representing Conservative Councillors from across England, this gathering which meets on an annual basis unites the political leadership of the four UK local government associations—LGA, NILGA, COSLA, and WLGA— With a packed agenda addressing critical issues facing the future of local government, the discussions unfolded with a spirit of collaboration and determination to chart a course towards a more resilient and cohesive future for local government across the United Kingdom.

The forum commenced with an in-depth exploration of the emerging localism agenda, drawing insights from the draft themes outlined in the LGA White Paper and our five asks as a sector for the next Government. Through our engaging roundtable discussion, attendees collectively refined and endorsed these five asks, recognising their alignment with the evolving needs and aspirations of local communities across all parts of the UK. The consensus reached during these deliberations underscored the unity of purpose among the associations, setting a solid foundation for concerted action and working together as elected councillors.

Central to the deliberations was the imperative of sustainable financing for local government. Attendees offered comprehensive overviews of local government finance from their respective associations, facilitating a rich exchange of ideas and best practices as well as a better understanding of the significant challenges many of us face within our councils. The discussions yielded valuable insights into innovative financing mechanisms and approaches to fiscal stewardship, fostering a spirit of mutual learning and collaboration however, significant pressures still exist and this was not underestimated in our discussions.

Crucially, the forum provided a platform to evaluate existing models of central-local relations across the UK. Insights gleaned from Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland underscored the diversity of approaches and highlighted opportunities for cross-regional collaboration. Attendees expressed a collective commitment to exploring avenues for enhancing intergovernmental cooperation, with proposals for a UK-wide central-local partnership and joint presentations to the incoming government of whatever colour is elected which received widespread support.

The statistics presented during the forum underscored the gravity of the financial challenges confronting local authorities. However, far from being discouraged, attendees approached these challenges with resolve and determination. The calls for comprehensive reform, including fair funding reviews and transitional mechanisms, resonated strongly, reflecting a shared commitment to securing the long-term sustainability of local services ultimately supporting our residents in all four corners of the UK.

As the forum drew to a close, there was a palpable sense of optimism and determination among attendees. The productive exchanges and collaborative spirit witnessed throughout the discussions underscored the immense potential for collective action in addressing the complex challenges facing local government not just devolution or financing but housing, economic development and investing in a sustainable future. Armed with renewed insights and a shared sense of purpose, attendees departed the forum energised and empowered, ready to advocate for policies that empower communities across the United Kingdom.

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