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Martin Swales: let’s use the Brexit delay to good effect

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Brexit has, understandably, dominated the attention of MPs and civil servants, as they seek to navigate this unique and extremely complicated process.

In local government across the UK, councillors and officers have also been heavily engaged, working with central government and preparing their communities for Britain’s departure from the EU.

The potential extension over a Brexit deal until 31 October presents a short pause that allows us to contribute to and prepare for some generation-defining domestic issues including the spending review and the social care and prevention green papers.

Since becoming president of Solace at the beginning of the year, I have been consulting with a wide range of senior colleagues from across local and central government. We have discussed working collaboratively so that we can make the most of these opportunities and create the right platform and conditions for the sector to prosper.

I have set out an agenda in this role to work with colleagues towards a united single vision for the future of local government. The feedback I have received so far is that this is something everyone is keen to be part of. Perhaps it is the nature of where we are right now in the UK that there is a recognition that one voice will have greater impact than many, and why this approach is resonating and feels particularly relevant today.

Over the last few months I have held very positive and productive discussions with our permanent secretary Melanie Dawes and more recently Catherine Frances, our new director general for local government and public services, to agree an approach about how Solace and the sector more widely can constructively contribute across Whitehall through the experience of the practitioner.

There have been early indications that the need for a fair and sustainable funding solution is being heard by ministers, including James Brokenshire, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss. Even Philip Hammond, in his spring statement speech, said the spending review would need to “reflect the public’s priorities” specifically citing social care, local government and schools.

I am determined to use my time as Solace UK president to ensure we build the right platform through a broader set of trusted relationships so that the sector can emerge stronger and more sustainable.

Now is exactly the right time to lay the foundations for this happen by taking the opportunity to positively shape some of the biggest policy and funding decisions that will impact our residents and communities for years to come.

Martin Swales, president, Solace; chief executive, South Tyneside Council

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  • We need single tier now!!!

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