Welcome to the new LGC magazine. We believe a weightier tome, with more space to explore ideas, challenges and innovations, is the ideal complement to our LGCplus.com online news service, which has an emphasis on rapidly analysing the latest developments.
LGC seeks to offer local government a vibrant new platform to consider fresh thinking because it is the local level which often demonstrates the greatest potential to devise responses to society’s most profound challenges. While creativity is possible on councils, even if their ability to convert ideas into action is stifled by centralism, our national institutions are largely failing to innovate. Indeed, the centre is regularly failing to exercise its most basic responsibility – to govern – leaving a void.
While creativity is possible on councils, our national institutions are largely failing to innovate
The paucity of new solutions centrally is shown by how national politicians of the right have spent the last couple of years pursing an implausible dream of a glorious post-Brexit nation state, in the mould of the British Empire. Those in the ascendency on the left give the impression of harking back to Michael Foot. And before the political middle-ground gets too smug, it should remind itself that moderate governments everywhere have proven incapable of delivering the long-term prosperity and happiness that would have warded off populism.
However, the past offers few solutions for today’s ills and no blueprint for us to seize tomorrow’s opportunities. We live in an era of rapid technological change, leading to an interconnectivity and competition from which no city, town or indeed individual is immune. The global elite can transfer money to benefit from the most generous tax jurisdictions, while the immobile and disposessed have no such ability; indeed, diminished taxation revenue is strangling the services that should support them. Meanwhile, we are living longer (at least until austerity impacted on life expectancy), contributing to an ageing society that needs support. Our increasingly diverse population has enhanced so many communities but has left some unsettled. The world’s economy generally grows, but at the expense of global warming, pollution and loss of habitats. And old policies to boost gross domestic product have recently failed to improve opportunity, security and living standards for a vast swathe of the population, possibly the majority. Local areas are increasingly divided into the haves and have-nots.
Most of these problems would benefit from global, continent-wide, national and responses. However, the difficulty of orchestrating global action is akin to that of herding cats, while our nation is withdrawing from the European Union, diminishing our continental clout, and our national government is as incapable as it has ever been. This all puts a new emphasis on the value of the local solution, which is generally unencumbered by Vladimir Putin or backstops, and can pay heed to each area’s unique geography, economy and population. Each place has its own advantages, which must be exploited, and drawbacks which it should seek to overcome. It is by empowering its residents and its workforce, through a representative democracy which is buoyed by the support of those with the greatest knowledge of local challenges, that a place stands the greatest likelihood of prosperity, opportunity and health.
Councils should be well placed to fill the vacuum created by central inaction and economic disruption. They are nimbler than global or national institutions and, unlike private companies, are committed to the public good. However, they will not be part of the zeitgeist without continual transformation, interaction and innovation. It is you, our readership, who as place makers and local leaders are the people in the driving seat on each city, county and town’s difficult journey. We have rethought LGC’s offer to do the utmost to support you and would appreciate your feedback on whether we meet your needs. We hope this new magazine will, in its own small way, enrich the debate about not just how we as a society get out of our present mess but how we can ensure every place and person enjoys compassion and prosperity.