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Planting the Flag: a new local normal

The response of local government to Covid-19 is nothing short of astonishing.

Focusing on what really matters for residents, authorities across the UK have quickly adapted to new ways of working and continue to deliver vital services. At the same time engaging communities to simplify processes, enabling people and businesses to access the services they need, sharing solutions, and maintaining and even increasing productivity.

Emerging from the crisis are a new sense of purpose, a revived community spirit, a digital culture amongst both organisations and citizens, an increased cadence of decision-making and rapid realisation of outcomes that hitherto had proved elusive.

Reset. Reform. Recover.

‘Reset–Reform-Recover’ have entered the lexicon, a preference over backsliding to how things were. How can local government authorities sustain the benefits from the new ways of working and supporting their communities in the many diverse places up and down the country? And, how can they avoid the very real risk of being forced into serving Section 114 notices en masse?

People. Place. Productivity.

Planting the Flag: a new local normal brings together the ideas and experience from members of Socitm and its partner associations (LOLA and MCE) around the world. With a People–Place-Productivity focus, the document sets out eight key areas of activity:

  • place-based leadership
  • democratic engagement and renewal
  • service design
  • workstyles
  • virtual infrastructure
  • data insights
  • asset rationalisation
  • living spaces.

Simplify. Standardise. Sustain.

In moving along the path towards recovery, the document advocates four key principles, namely: Simplify –Standardise – Share – Sustain.

Already, local authorities have been developing and sharing simplified, standardised approaches to running virtual council meetings, and to harnessing data and supporting vulnerable people. The challenge now will be to sustain these into the future.

Martin Ferguson, Socitm’s Policy and research director said:

“The achievements of local authorities – their staff, their leadership, their local partners, communities and volunteers – in responding to the Covid-19 pandemic are undeniable. Digital technologies have played a critical role in sustaining and joining-up services, sometimes for the first time. But it is the outcomes that matter. Across the country – from Liverpool to Norfolk – the feedback from local residents has been overwhelmingly positive. The challenge now is to build on this experience, to escape the stranglehold of past, broken processes and to embed the positive changes in the way that local authorities and their staff work to address outcomes that matter in their place.

In the coming weeks and months, local authorities will be reviewing the new practices and procedures that have been implemented. Through constructive discussion with service leads and service users, they will develop an understanding of what has worked well and should remain and what has not and therefore needs to be improved.

Socitm will be exploring these issues further, through two initiatives:

  1. Covid-19 Digital Impact Survey: designed to generate insights into the changes that have happened and the transition to future ways of working
  2. President’s Week. A series of webinars, panel discussions and workshops 8–12 June

If you would like to read more about Planting the Flag, you can access the full document here:

About LOLA
Linked Organisation of Local Authority ICT Societies -a non-profit organisation of international ICT professional associations in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, UK and USA.

About MCE
Major Cities of Europe –ICT Users Group is composed of over 500 leading experts of innovation from municipalities across Europe.

Further information: Alexandra Murphy, Socitm Press Office