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.
Richard Puleston, Essex County Council’s Director Strategy Services, predicts a future where councils will act more as the guarantors of effective and efficient services than as direct providers.
Any time capsule from today about what the council of 2043 will look like runs the risk of looking as ridiculous and full of hubris to our descendants as jetpacks and meals in the form of pills do from those 1950s “Tomorrow’s World” shows.
If a week is a long time in politics, then 30 years is several life times. Back in 1983, Bill Gates’ vision of a computer in every home seemed a distant pipe dream; the UK’s first mobile phone was still two years away from being launched.
But if it’s difficult to foresee the future, there are some universal truths and inescapable challenges that councils will have to recognise and overcome no matter what the makeup of local governance is by the middle of the century.
It is inconceivable that the tide which rolled out over the last five years will come back in during our lifetime. So the future council will be smaller and will have managed the transition of service delivery with diminished resources. Councils will act more as the guarantor of effective and efficient services than a direct provider.
That role will demand that the future Council acts as a local leader of place in a way that was first foreseen by Joseph Chamberlain, the great nineteenth century reforming Mayor of Birmingham who established that local government was much more than a council chamber; it has the duty to influence agendas as diverse as public health and education.
Future councils therefore need to lead and bring together agencies from the national to the hyperlocal around outcomes, not organisations. They will compel new technology to lie at the heart of personalised services delivered from multi-agency teams. And they will require the legitimacy from a new social contract with residents engaging them in genuine democratic decisions and translating the role of the Councillor away from direct decision-maker to place-based influencer and “outcomes champion”