The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MBE, MP for Barking and co-founder of the LGiU, sees councils getting creative to protect vital services 30 years from now.
As leader of Islington Council, I experienced firsthand how hard but important it is for a council to adapt and respond to new challenges.
Councils today are under enormous pressure, with huge cuts to their budgets. But I know that local authorities are brilliant at responding to different challenges. Indeed not only are you providing an effective dented shield in your communities, but you are grasping the challenge of the cuts to innovate and find new and better way of delivering services. Change happens so fast. It’s difficult to predict what the council of 2043 will look like but I do have some predictions.
Many areas are facing a housing crisis, with some 4.5 million people waiting for an affordable home, yet last year only 115,000 new homes were built in England. With such slow progress this will continue to put a heavy burden on councils. By 2043 they will have had to examine radical new options, such as using their Pension Funds to become institutional investors in residential developments, to help stem the crisis.
By 2043 libraries and leisure facilities will have transformed. When faced with the prospect of enormous budget cuts these are usually the first casualties, despite their popularity. With more cuts likely, councils will have to find ways of protecting these services – for example via asset transfer, with libraries and leisure facilities mutualised or operating as co-ops.
As the private sector plays an increasing role in delivering public services, councils in urban areas where residents are hit hardest by private sector failings – from the private rental market to the Work Programme – will have to step in and expand their range of activity. This could mean by 2043 councils running employment agencies, estate agents and even community banks, to ensure their residents are not ripped off or left behind.