Climate, recovery and renewal - looking ahead to a decade of action
As we emerge from the hardest eighteen months most of us can remember, we look up to find even bigger challenges ahead of us. Recovery and climate change will dominate our thinking and determine the future of place for years ahead.
As we all know too well, the key to unlocking both of these is transformative and longer-term funding, but we also need to collaborate more extensively, more meaningfully and more effectively if we are to meet these challenges. Local authorities provide local leadership and understand what their places need, but they cannot succeed alone, which is why ADEPT’s focus for this year is the three Cs – collaboration, climate and covid recovery.
The ADEPT Autumn Conference 2021 will give us time to focus on these complex and interrelated issues and, importantly, on the opportunities they present. Place directors are not alone in wanting to see a recovery that is clean, green and inclusive. Our communities, partners and sector colleagues share many of our priorities and will be vital collaborators in delivering real change and innovation.
The political and economic shifts that began with the Referendum are still playing out, with many commentators identifying an ongoing realignment of national politics, as well as our ongoing relationship with the EU. May’s local elections saw a strengthening of the Conservatives’ influence in local government, but across the country the picture is mixed. Covid-19 has affected every area of councils’ services, business and finances and cost billions of pounds nationally, likely dashing hopes for realistic funding allocations when the Comprehensive Spending Review is eventually announced. The potential impacts of this highly political environment are particularly significant for local government - the Government is committed to levelling up, but to succeed we need real recognition that our places are all different.
Covid-19 has presented opportunities as well as placing considerable strain on business and communities. Changes in working practices present new possibilities as well as threats to high streets and town centres across the country. People have become more connected with their local places. The increases in walking and cycling, and subsequent improvements in air quality and noise due to reduced traffic, have given people a glimpse of an alternative future. The pandemic has made us all look more closely at the relationships between the environment, physical and mental health and wellbeing, social deprivation and economic growth. Place services sit firmly in the intersection between them all.
As we emerge from lockdown, place directors and their strategic partners have a key role in driving and supporting places to recover and renew from the pandemic. The Government has started to paint a picture of the future with a new Cabinet Office Levelling Up Unit and promised White Paper, a LEPs review, planning and waste reforms, an imminent transport decarbonisation plan and the much-delayed Environment Bill. By the end of June, it will have set the world’s most ambitious climate change target to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels. It feels like this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-set the world we live in – to build back better and greener - and place directors will be at the forefront of this work.
It’s never been busier in the public sector and the opportunities to deliver real change in areas of responsibility covered by ADEPT members have never been greater. We believe that we are embarking on a decade of action as we embark on the new approaches, new partnerships and new delivery models we need to meet the challenges ahead.
The ADEPT Autumn Conference provides the time and space for reflection and sharing of experiences as well as the opportunity to listen to exciting speakers with fresh ideas for shaping the future.
The three themes underpinning the conference – tackling climate change (reducing emissions and building resilience), meeting the funding challenge, and doing this as we support the country’s recovery from the pandemic – will be reflected in the plenary and workshop sessions.