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District Bulletin for December: Happy Christmas – and thank you!

Published: 14 December 2023

In this bulletin:

CLLR SAM CHAPMAN-ALLEN: Happy Christmas – and thank you

MUST-READS: Our round-up of media and policy highlights for DCN councils

YVONNE REES: I’m leaving with pride – we’ve made a difference

NOTICEBOARD: Essential diary dates and opportunities for you and your council

DCN EXECUTIVE BOARD UPDATE: What our leaders discussed on 13 December


Happy Christmas – and thank you

Let’s reflect on the impact and achievements of DCN member councils in 2023

Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen, Chairman, District Councils’ Network


As we approach the festive season, I want to extend heartfelt gratitude and season’s greetings to all of you. Your dedication and tireless efforts throughout the year have been the cornerstone of our communities.

The range and impact of services provided by our 169 member councils, covering 53% of the country and serving over 20 million people, is truly remarkable. From waste collection to welfare support, from fostering economic development to enhancing health and wellbeing, your work touches every aspect of daily life. You have been the unsung heroes, ensuring that our residents find the support and services they need.

This year has been challenging, but your resilience and commitment have been unwavering. As the Chairman of the District Councils’ Network, I am proud of how we have collectively navigated these times. Our voice into Government and our partners remains strong, advocating for reforms that will enhance our support for our communities.

As we celebrate this December, let’s take a moment to reflect on our achievements and the difference we make. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. I eagerly look forward to seeing many of you at our Annual Conference in March, if not before.

MUST-READS: Our round-up of media and policy highlights for DCN councils

Kath O’Leary, Chief Executive of Stroud DC, in the MJ (£): Districts ‘think global, act local’

William Benson, Chief Executive of Tunbridge Wells BC, in LGC (£): We need to rethink council audits

Policy in Practice: Autumn Statement 2023: Will increases to the Local Housing Allowance reduce homelessness? – Policy in Practice

Demos report: Wall to wall support: joining up public services and housing for vulnerable children, young people and families

Resolution Foundation Report for its Economy 2030 Inquiry: Ending stagnation – a new economic strategy for Britain


I’m leaving with pride – we’ve made a difference

The DCN can build bridges between councils, says its outgoing chief executive lead

Yvonne Rees, chair, DCN Chief Executive Group; chief executive, Cherwell District Council



Christmas is, of course, a time of joy. But for me this year there’s a tinge of sadness as I’m stepping down from my role as chair of DCN’s Chief Executive Group.

Throughout my career as a chief executive, I’ve understood the importance of the DCN.

It’s clear what the DCN offers the sector – the ability to speak with one voice, both to central Government and to other partners. Together we are stronger. But that’s not all…

From a personal perspective DCN has given me the ability to engage with a close network of colleagues across the country. I’ll let you into a secret: being a chief executive can be a lonely job – you need comradeship and advice. My fellow chief execs across Oxfordshire are a great source of support, but what DCN gives me is the ability to talk to counterparts in different areas with different experiences. Whenever we’re taxed by something we benefit from each other’s insight and experiences.

This DCN dividend isn’t just for chief executives. Many of my officer team members have been involved in the DCN. Their work, as volunteers on specific DCN projects or events, gives them links with peers nationwide; it offers them routeways into central government, which would otherwise be impenetrable. Everyone who’s worked with DCN has come back more confident, more knowledgeable of the world beyond Cherwell.

So I heartily encourage any chiefs to consider standing at the next round of Chief Executive Group elections next summer, and any leaders to stand for the DCN Executive – and you can do this after May’s local elections. And I urge chiefs to get your skates on and finish your application for one of your up-and-coming officers to participate in DCN’s staff development programme, which offers mentorship, guidance and inspiration. Hurry up guys – the deadline’s Monday!

Well time is running out for me too in this role. As I look back on my time as chair of the Chief Executive Group and, for that matter, chief executive of Cherwell and, before that, Oxfordshire County Council, South Northamptonshire and Mole Valley, I have a sense of pride. The thing that really makes me tick is helping people. Districts are so close to our communities that you can feel the difference you make.

At districts, we know the things that really matter for our communities; our housing function places at the cornerstone of local wellbeing. We’re key to delivering a physically and mentally well community. We change lives. Our residents are front and centre in everything that we do.

I’ll be leaving Cherwell in the next couple of weeks and then take time to decide what to do next. So, to misquote Arnie, I may be back.

Hasta la vista!

And thank you for everything you’ve done for me, for each other and for our communities.


NOTICEBOARD: Essential diary dates and opportunities for you and your council

Health best practice The NHS Confederation is seeking case studies of district councils’ work to link health to the local economy for a best-practice bulletin it is producing. If you wish to be featured please email charlotte.maguire@local.gov.uk.

DCN Annual Conference Places are selling fast for the biggest district council event of the year, which takes place on 14-15 March in St Albans, Hertfordshire. For further details, and to secure your place, please click here.

Digital transformation DCN and Capita are holding a roundtable in London on digital transformation on Friday, 26 January, from 11am to 1pm. If you would like to participate, please email dcn@local.gov.uk.


DCN EXECUTIVE BOARD UPDATE: What our leaders discussed on 13 December

  • Local Government Finance Settlement and budget pressures
  • The DCN Annual Conference
  • Tributes to Yvonne Rees on her standing down as Chair of DCN’s Chief Executives Group

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