Keeping our communities safe

Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive of LGiU, comments:

It’s been a very difficult few weeks for local government as for the country as a whole.

We have had three fatal terrorist attacks and the horrific loss of life in the Grenfell Tower fire. Of course our first thoughts must always be with the victims and their families, but in very different ways all these events relate directly to the functions of local government.

The Grenfell Tower fire raises a series of questions around enforcement of building regulations, governance, scrutiny of decision making, and funding. These will all be looked at in some detail and it would be premature to draw any conclusions ahead of the detailed investigations and enquiry that will now take place.

Nonetheless, these are clearly issues that will be of concern to councils across the country and to which we will need to return in the coming months. Those of us who work in and around local government have a responsibility to avoid hasty judgements, but equally to look unflinchingly at where our systems or practices may not be good enough. LGiU will be working with our members to do this.

The terrorist outrages in London and Manchester also see local government at the front line both of responding to the immediate crisis and of leading long term strategies for tackling hate crime, preventing radicalisation and promoting community cohesion. They also have a less tangible, but equally vital, responsibility to help communities work through their grief and the different forms of trauma and loss they may be experiencing.

All local authorities have civil emergency plans they hope never to implement. Sadly it is likely that more of them will have to do so.

Local government’s wide range of responsibilities gives it a crucial role in co-ordinating different agencies as well as voluntary and community groups in their emergency responses. Its democratic mandate gives it a responsibility to exercise local leadership and an ability to build the aspirations and needs of local people into decision making structures.

Where this has not happened effectively we need, as a sector, to be honest about it and to learn from it, whilst remembering that is only through effective local leadership that we can keep our communities safe.