2017 has not always been the most uplifting of years. Our choice of some of the most significant LGC stories of the year reflects this.
Austerity’s impact continued to be felt on many services. LGC recently, for example, revealed the extend of how emergency planning budgets have faced huge cuts over the course of this decade.
And in October we revealed how the scale of the crisis facing children’s services budgets was now approaching the level in of that in adult social care.
With grants falling, councils have been searching for pioneering ways of bringing in income. In a series of investigations, LGC has shown how many councils are investing in the potentially risky property market.
On service reform, hopes that the NHS and local government can work together on integrating services have taken a battering this year.
There was £2bn extra for social care, over three years, in the spring Budget - but LGC revealed the extent to which this came with strings, forcing it to have a hospital focus.
And Leicestershire CC chief executive John Sinnott wrote about how NHS bureaucracy is killing all good in the sustainability and transformation plan concept.
In that other politically crucial area of housing, LGC demonstrated a significant north-south divide in the Department for Communities & Local Government’s housing estimates.
Politically it has been a year of crisis.
Theresa May called a surprise election with the aim of securing a landslide. However, her election manifesto backfired, with LGC describing it as a “top-down manifesto that harks back to the past”. Then the Conservatives lost their majority, resulting in uncertainty and key policies such as 100% business rates localisation being suspended. LGC stated: Top-down has failed for May; localism can relieve the policy logjam.
Then came the Grenfell Tower disaster. Kensington & Chelsea RBC’s reputation was destroyed; more awfully 71 lives had been lost. Grenfell shows the value of an interventionist, properly funded public sector, said an LGC editorial.
Communities secretary Sajid Javid used his flagship Local Government Association conference speech to claim the whole of local government faced a collapse in confidence - a viewpoint that enraged many, especially as a result of it coming so soon after the inspiring responses to terrorism outrages of councils in Greater Manchester and London. Mr Javid’s claim was memorably likened by Newcastle City Council leader Nick Forbes (Lab) to a “bucket of cold sick”. This unpleasant image seemed an appropriate metaphor for so many other developments for local government.
As 2018 dawns there is much uncertainty in local government, in Britain and across the world. After Catalonia demanded independence from Spain and Lombardy autonomy from Italy, Tony Travers predicted Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and London could seek sucession from the UK. The unthinkable has become entirely plausible.