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We are a cross-party, member-led network, providing a single voice for our member councils

District Bulletin for March: Happy birthday to us!

Published: 28 March 2024

In this newsletter:

CLLR SAM CHAPMAN-ALLEN: Happy birthday to us!

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

DCN CONFERENCE: Our round-up of DCN’s biggest event

NOTICEBOARD: Essential diary dates and opportunities


Happy birthday to us!

Let’s showcase district councils’ innovation at our 50th anniversary

Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen, Chairman, DCN; leader, Breckland Council


It was so good to see so many of you at the DCN Annual Conference two weeks ago.

Our member councils’ willingness to come together – especially at a time of extreme workloads – demonstrates the spirit so prevalent across the sector, namely that districts deliver. Together, we are the largest constituent part of local government, with a strong voice, and as a membership organisation we can offer one another mutual support, inspiration and comradeship. It was so good catching up with all of you who attended, whether officer or member and whichever party or part of the country you represent.

The conference had an upbeat atmosphere. Our theme was examining the challenges and opportunities we face as we look ahead to 2030 and beyond – a time horizon which extends beyond the timescales that dominate budget and local election cycles. We had sessions on everything from inward investment to AI. Many of these issues are daunting but I’m confident that our track record of sharing expertise puts us in the strongest place to contend with them.

I wish to offer personal thanks to everyone who contributed to the event, by speaking, supporting, engaging or attending. Further thanks to everyone who has completed our post-event survey – your comments will feed into our preparations for our 2025 conference, which we’ll seek to make bigger and better than ever before.

The conference, of course, took place just before the vast majority of our councils celebrate their 50th anniversary. This is some achievement and the source of much celebration.

Over the past half-century we as district councils have proved our value to our local communities. Our status as the most localised principal authorities gives us a unique advantage.

Of course, no one can predict what the next half century holds but I can be confident that being close to communities will continue to bring results.

To commemorate this anniversary, we’ve asked our member councils to produce short films to showcase examples of local innovation and delivery. We will release these films regularly over the remainder of the year. To start things off with a bang we are focusing this week on the bold plans of Folkestone & Hythe District Council to build Otterpool Park, a new garden town. This is a great example of a district council being a force for sustainable development and seeking to meet local housing needs. You can see their excellent film here.

If you’d like us to showcase a film from your council, please get in touch with dcn@local.gov.uk or nick.golding@local.gov.uk.

Projects like this are the truest celebration of the value of district councils. However, I do hope you can also use our Easter Monday anniversary as an opportunity to toast the role of you and your council in ensuring our communities are vibrant, healthy and prosperous.


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

Penna blog for DCN: Finance – the hot potato for local government

Cllr Sam Chapman-Allen in the MJ (£): The threat from bank and building society closures

Public Accounts Committee report: Levelling up funding to local government

Cllr Susan Brown, leader, Oxford City Council; Vice-Chair, DCN, in LGC (£): With funding and freedom we can end homelessness

The FT on Right-to-Buy (£): Jeremy Hunt pulls £200mn a year from council budgets

The Observer: Capacity crunch on National Grid is delaying new homes in UK by years

Pollsters report on the issues that matter to people: Ipsos Issues Index February 2024

Institute for Government: Power with Purpose: Final report on the Commission on the Centre of Government

National Audit Office report: Use of artificial intelligence in government

Sheila Oxtoby, Chief Executive, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, in the MJ (£): Partnership working is making major projects deliverable

Kieron Williams, Executive Member for Climate, Transport and Environment, London Councils in the MJ (£): Join the conversation on waste reform


Did you miss our annual conference?

Watch our exclusive highlights film



DCN’s annual conference in St Albans, which took place on 14-15 March, attracted 250 delegates from district and unitary councils across the country.

The event at Sopwell House was the biggest ever DCN Conference.

Our conference theme was looking ahead to 2030 and beyond – facing up to the challenges of the coming years, and examining the opportunities that they will bring.

We have produced a short film showing some of the main conference speakers to give you a lasting flavour of the event. You can see this here.

Speakers included ministers or shadows from the three main political parties, journalist and presenter Steph McGovern, pollster Professor Sir John Curtice, AI expert Chris Meah, former health secretary Patricia Hewitt and Dame Clare Moriarty, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice.

Further footage of our speakers can be seen on the DCN LinkedIn page.

A huge thank you to everyone who attended, sponsored or spoke at the event.


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

Planning: DCN and Public Practice are jointly hosting a webinar on planning skills and capacity challenges on Thursday, 18 April from 1-2pm. Speakers at the event include Cllr Barry Wood, DCN’s planning spokesperson and leader of Cherwell District Council, and Alex Govier, Partnership Manager at Public Practice. To participate, please click here.

Workforce: Penna, a DCN strategic partner, is holding a webinar about neurodiversity at 12pm on Tuesday, 23 April. To sign up for the Great minds don’t think alike webinar, hosted by Alexis Curtis-Harris, please follow this link.

APPG The APPG for District Councils held its AGM on 12 March and is pleased to have 23 MPs and Peers signed up as members. More information about the APPG and the website is here.

Energy theft: Crimestoppers has launched the Stay Energy Safe campaign to highlight the hidden dangers of energy theft and tampering with electricity and gas meters. Stay Energy Safe is keen for councils to publicise this campaign in local communities. You can find out more about the campaign here. You can find an information sheet about the issue below.

Stay Energy Safe



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