Faith in community hits all time high

The New Local Government Network has found that local cohesion and trust has never been higher, despite economic confidence at its lowest levels.

The organisation’s Leadership Index found that economic confidence is at its lowest levels since the survey began, as over three-quarters of council heads call for more funding to deal with the impact of coronavirus. Faith in the local business environment fell by over a third since the last quarter, while belief in having adequate powers and resources to boost economic development dropped by five per cent.

However, those leading councils say local cohesion and trust has never been higher, with over 95 per cent of respondents calling the contribution of community groups to their pandemic response ‘very significant’ or ‘significant’.

Alongside more funding to deal with the outbreak (78 per cent), council heads called for more PPE (43 per cent) and better data sharing (33 per cent) from national government. Some asked the government to improve its overall approach to collaborating with councils.

Adam Lent, Director of the New Local Government Network, said: “The survey tells a story of the resourcefulness of local government, but also of the crushing economic impact of Covid-19, and their depleted ability to deal with this blow. It is interesting to note that this survey was conducted before the government rowed back on its promise to fully reimburse local government for its pandemic-related expense. This will have further dented councils’ optimism, not to mention their basic chance of financial survival.

“Amid this gloom, it is amazing to see indications of greater community trust and cohesion, as people and council key workers band together to face the crisis. This survey is a striking endorsement of community power. Those who lead councils almost universally praise the involvement of community groups in tackling Covid-19, even as they criticise the uncollaborative stance of Westminster. We hope that these partnerships and spirit of collaboration between communities and councils will continue to flourish long after the pandemic is over.”

The Leadership Index is a quarterly survey of council leaders, chief executives and mayors. It seeks to measure the mood of local government, by asking recurring and topical questions of every type of council, from across the UK.