Sam’s Blog – November 2021
Hello DCN members
Thanks for reading this first of what will be regular monthly thoughts from me on the biggest issues facing you and all our member councils. It’s my chance to tell you about the world as I see it and to celebrate our successes.
Our thoughts will be inevitably turning to the provisional Local Government Finance Settlement, due in December. We at DCN have been working hard to make the case for you all to receive a fair share of the new £1.6bn per year grant funding, as well as calling for greater council tax flexibilities. At the same time, we’ve asked for the New Homes Bonus and retained income from business rates to be kept at current funding levels. We’ve written to Michael Gove and engaged senior officials at DLUHC to press our points. We’ll keep up the pressure, and I’m sure we’ll all be keeping our fingers crossed for an early Christmas present come the Settlement.
Another prospect we’re all hotly anticipating next month is the Levelling Up White Paper. We got some hints of what might be coming from Michael Gove’s recent appearance before the HCLG Committee. He talked about strong local leadership, improving living standards, and restoring pride in place – all of which play to our strengths. We’ll continue to highlight what we can achieve given the right resources and powers, as we did in our recent case study collection. And we’ll champion our pivotal role in delivering on this agenda: we’re the people of place.
I write this still fresh from the conclusion of COP26. As well as the headline declarations on clean energy, deforestation, methane emissions, and zero emission vehicles, the final agreement recognised the “urgent need for multilevel action and collaboration” across all levels of government. We’ll be using this to help spur on work within our new Greener Communities strategic priority, to champion the role of DCN councils in delivering net zero and adaptations within our communities. It was great to see the efforts of the LGA delegation pay off and excellent that DCN council representatives were at the heart of the action – Cllr Bridget Smith and Cllr Pippa Heylings from South Cambridgeshire, Cllr Joe Harris from Cotswold DC, and Cllr Marianne Overton from North Kesteven.
Make no bones about it, we’re heading into a tough-looking winter. Our communities will have to demonstrate resilience as hardship looks set to bite. Rising cost of living for many still grappling with the financial aftermath of the pandemic will put further pressure on our residents, and our housing and benefits services. We all know that we do much to lessen the wave of homelessness that may be building. Our officers offer real support and guidance to those in need, and with tools such as Discretionary Housing Payments, we can continue to prevent further homelessness. We’re looking to produce a set of case studies, highlighting members’ innovative and best practice in DHP use, in the coming weeks. This will include places such as East Devon, who have set up a financial resilience team to tackle the route causes of hardship.
As we approach the soggiest of seasons, another concern for many will be the prospect of winter flooding. Those of you in areas prone to flooding in the past know all too well the havoc and misery it causes. I’m sure we’ll all take actions to support and safeguard our residents, as we always strive to do. In the longer term I know many of you are spearheading projects to mitigate flooding and adapt to changing climate. We recently tweeted about the great work Gloucester City are doing in this area – creating more floodplain storage and adapting to heat events. Please do get in touch with the central team at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to share any examples of your adaptation work.
This winter will also see us mobilising our new strategic priorities – Levelling Up, Healthy Communities, Greener Communities, Finance & Investment and Local Leadership. We’ll be getting on the front foot to influence the Government’s thinking early and to be the go-to organisation in local government. Watch out for more details soon of how you can all get involved. We’ve also beefed up our social media and comms activity – follow us on Twitter @districtcouncil to see lots of examples of DCN in the news and the great work we all do in our local places to support and promote our communities.
Another December highlight will be our Christmas Drinks Reception on the evening of the 14th. We’ll be welcoming DCN members, parliamentarians and partners to celebrate our achievements this year. If you’d like to attend then please do get in touch with the DCN central team.
In the new year, we’ll also see our much-loved Staff Development Programme get back into full swing. I’m so pleased we’re bringing this back and ask all Chief Executives to encourage your rising stars to apply here. The deadline is 13th December. We’re also on the lookout for Chief Executives to act as mentors for our participants. This is a vital part of the programme so, if you’re interested in volunteering, please drop us a line at DCN@local.gov.uk
I’ll end with a big round of hearty congratulations. 18 of you were successful in bidding for the Community Renewal Fund. Many of you were involved in successful Levelling Up Fund bids. And Maidstone, Canterbury City and Dorset all won LGC Awards. Everywhere I turn there are winners! I’m sure there’ll be plenty more to come in the new year!