To mark the LGiU’s 30th anniversary we invited 30 contributors to gaze in to a crystal ball and tell us how councils will be different in 2043.
Jonathan Werran predicts that the council of 2043 will be larger, with the strong tax and finance base necessary to drive the local economy and deliver high-quality services.
As a journalist covering local government, I always find myself stumped and gasping for words whenever an interviewee throws back to me the perennial question about the future of the sector.
It’s so much easier to hear MPs, councillors and experts expound their grave concerns, and proffer well-thought out solutions on managing demand and harnessing finances.
At such dangerous times as these, one is tempted to resort to the patron saint of hack journalists GK Chesterton. The author of ‘The Napoleon of Notting Hill’, and father of a rather mystical form of localism, would assert the optimist is the true revolutionary ‘because pessimism appeals to the weaker side of everybody, and the pessimist, therefore, drives as roaring a trade as the publican’.
On this basis, I would confidently assert that the council of 2043 will be better placed than its contemporary. The council of the future will be larger, with the establishment of combined authorities the norm.
Sad to say it, Lord Heseltine was right when he said posterity will be as oblivious to the existence of English district councils as their long-departed Celtic counterparts.
But to survive three decades into the future, the 2043 local authority must possess a strong tax and finance base from which it can enrich its local economy and deliver high-quality services to a larger population.
The key, as today, will be coping with demographic pressures at both end of the age-spectrum for a UK population in excess of 75 million.
Coping with more than six million over 80 year olds in 2043 will require innovation and an imitation of Japan’s ability to adapt to the needs of the elderly.
But resisting accusations of Pollyannaism, I would suggest that what must change in terms of local government’s relationship with Whitehall, will have changed over this time.