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President update: 28th October 2021

28 October 2021

It feels like déjà vu, and not for the first time, that as Covid rates climb, the government is resisting calls to implement even the lightest of restrictions. Local authorities are once again in the position of seeing rates rise in their local areas, but without that vital national backing that brings weight to any precautions they might want to put in place. The vaccines have done an amazing job, but with simple measures like mask wearing no longer having the priority they once had, and with winter and increased indoors mixing ahead of us, we have growing concerns for many of our services. Firstly, for the impacts on health and social care services, but also, any further strain on HGV and passenger transport drivers will undoubtedly impact on waste collections, public and school transport and exacerbate supply chain issues leading up to Christmas. There are conflicting messages on when and if Plan B might be implemented, which includes an emphasis on working from home. We wait and see.

Wednesday’s Budget had a few surprises left, even after press briefings leading up to the main event. For local government, the overall funding level appears good and to be welcomed - £4.8bn core grant funding is better than anticipated. However, the devil is in the detail and £4.8bn now over a three year cycle does not undo so many years of budget cuts, so we will continue to dig deep. At a point where inflation is predicted to run at 4% and overall living standards are stagnating, the provision for additional council tax burdens that will come to sustain services risks household budgets and public confidence in local authorities. The good news is that there is money for decarbonisation projects, green buildings and transport, even if some of the announcements are not new.

Following the productive meeting with the Presidents of ADPH, ADASS and ADCS and the LGA last month, we have written jointly to the Prime Minister setting out how we want to ‘work with government to develop and deliver a holistic approach addressing long term inequalities, embedding prevention, tackling climate change, regenerating the economy and ultimately creating more resilient, safer and healthier places.’ You can read the whole letter here

On behalf of ADEPT, I have also written to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for DLUHC. In the letter, I set out how ‘to achieve levelling up at a place level requires a whole range of interdependent economic, social and environmental services to work together. Our role as place directors is to help our places to ‘self-level’, to join things up and to support our council leaders in making things happen and improving opportunities for our local communities and businesses.’ Again, we have set out how we would welcome the opportunity to work with government. Read the letter here.

This month, I have caught up with David Hill, DG and James Quinault, Director, at Defra, met with Naomi Cooke, Head of Workforce at the LGA and I joined a panel at the LCRIG conference on behalf of ADEPT. 

As you know, there has been a whole raft of government publications on climate change and net zero. We are still working through our response to the Government’s Net Zero Strategy, which will be reflected in a refreshed Climate Change Policy Position. My initial thoughts are that the references to local climate action are very positive, but we urgently need clarity on the powers and resources that will enable us to take this vital work forward. I am pleased to see, however, that ADEPT gets two name checks, both in the proposed Local Net Zero Forum and referencing our Preparing for a Changing Climate: Good Practice Guidance for Local Government, jointly produced with Defra and the Local Adaptation Advisory Panel. Aaron Gould, Head of Local Government Climate Change at CDLUHC, joined the Environment Board meeting yesterday, and will be joining the Yorkshire & Humber Board meeting on 10 November to talk through the strategy and implications for place.

The Heat and Buildings Strategy was issued on the same day, which poses similar questions as the Net Zero Strategy. We badly need certainty, and a recognition that we must have solutions to the urgent need to retrofit homes, and the training that has to happen to build the skilled workforce we need to do that. We welcome the many positives in the strategy, but there are fundamental issues that have to be addressed now, and need more than an acknowledgement of ‘further work to do’. The Blueprint Coalition have issued a press release with its detailed response here

The Live Labs programme has been busy with the publication of its fourth White Paper - Decarbonisation - which you can read here alongside the accompanying blog from Programme Director, Giles Perkins and a press release. The second blog this month comes from Buckinghamshire Live Lab, where the Connected Places Catapult’s Georgina Box talks about their report into the Impacts of Covid-19 on local transport. Read the blog here.

As I hope you will have seen, we have been putting out a call for Expressions of Interest for the 2022 Excellence in Place Leadership programme. The deadline for application is midnight on 29th October, so there is only a very short time left ion which to apply. There have been two successful cohorts so far, and it’s always an oversubscribed opportunity. If you want to find out more about it, there are blogs describing each session and their thoughts written by members here. Details about the 2022 programme and outputs from each of the sessions from the last two years can also be found on the EiPL webpage here.

The 2021 National Traffic Managers Conference, held in Leicester on 13 October, was a great success, with a great range of interesting contributors led by keynote speaker, Anne Shaw - Violence Against Women and Girls Transport Champion and Managing Director, TfWM. You can find slide packs from the conference on the ADEPT website: Slidepack Session 1Slidepack Session 2 and Slidepack Final Session.

This year’s second Proving Services/FHRG Innovation Conference is the subject of a blog from Proving’s Karen Farquharson. The conference included sessions from Eurovia and Atkins and an update on the FHRG’s work on Scope 1, 2 and 3 Greenhouse Gas emissions. The completed Scope 1 & 2 guidance is due to be published on 26th November 2021. Find out more here.

There is still time to book your place at the  ADEPT Autumn Conference, 18 – 19 November, held at the Apex Hotel in Bath. The draft programme for Climate, Recovery and Renewal - looking ahead to a decade of action is available hereSessions include levelling up and building back better, the future of place, the competition for road space and what the Dasgupta Review means for sustainable growth. Book your place here.

Booking is now open for the Live Labs Expo on 1st December, which will be a celebration event for all the Live Lab teams and their partners at Pride Park Stadium, Derby. So come and meet them and find out how they’ve adopted a broad range of new technologies from thermal roads to big data, the skills it takes to run innovation projects and how each technology could work for your own local authorities (register here). Have a look at the Live Labs pages to get a flavour of all the trials and technologies, blogs and white papers.

As ever, please keep checking our COVID-19 updates page for news, as well as the ADEPT website, where we publish a whole range of updates and documents to support members.