Sam’s Blog – March 2022
Dear DCN members,
I start this month’s blog with a reflection on the terrible events in Ukraine. This attack on a sovereign nation is deeply troubling on a global scale. I’m sure that all of you stand with me, and indeed the rest of the country, in support of the Ukrainian people.
In my own council we’re mobilising our local voluntary sector to support the international humanitarian effort. We’re reaching out to our communities to support Ukrainian citizens and their families and to ensure the strongest possible community cohesion. And we’re gearing up to welcome and assist refugees. I’m sure you’re all doing the same and more. It’s vital that we all hold together at this traumatic time. If we can take one positive from this, it’s the unity our country and our communities are displaying to stand up to Russian aggression and reach out a helping hand to its victims. Unity amongst ourselves and unity with the wider world. We at DCN are no strangers to unity of late; we’ve presented a united face on many fronts, not least in standing up to deliver during the pandemic.
I’m also confident that we’ll deliver again to help tackle the growing cost of living crisis. The team here at DCN have been monitoring the information rolled out on the council tax energy rebate, and have remobilised our Revenues and Benefits Group. This group will be looking to pick up any issues with the guidance for the rebate, so that we can successfully deliver it, alongside the associated discretionary funds. If anyone from your council would like to feed into this work, then do contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Revs and Bens Group, along with our Healthy Communities workstream, will also be assessing other growing issues as cost of living bites. So do keep an eye out for future communications in the coming days.
Housing is another area where we provide an indispensable service to our communities. I hope you’ll join our next all-member call this Wednesday 9th March to hear from Terrie Alafat CBE on the recent report from the Building Back Britain Commission. The session will be chaired by our Levelling Up Spokesperson, Cllr Phil King, Leader of Harborough DC, and feature contributions from the Off-Site Homes Alliance. We’ll also be joined by our members North Kesteven and Stevenage to talk about net zero homes and Modern Methods of Construction. Not one to be missed!
It’s now just over a month since the Levelling Up White Paper was published. I remain certain that DCN councils must have an essential role to play in delivering the Government’s ambitions for levelling up. There are a myriad of ways our members already deliver on this. Here are just a few of them: in Rossendale we’re levelling up life skills- offering placements via a network of 100 local employers. In Teignbridge we’re levelling up the town centre- revitalising Newton Abbot through ambitious plans via Future High Streets funding. In Harrogate we’re levelling up health by providing prescription pathways for physical activity and wellbeing sessions to those who need it most.
We’ll shortly be publishing a report commissioned from the University of East Anglia which underlines the health value of our wellbeing and leisure services. We’ll be making the case that these should be front and centre of the national social prescribing programme outlined in the Levelling Up White Paper.
When it comes to County Deals we’re working on the front foot- convening a working group of representatives from the six two-tier pathfinder areas to help secure the best possible deals for our members in all areas. We’ll be continuing the call for a much more formal and prominent role for districts and will soon publish a new report by Professor Colin Copus, refreshing his last work for us: ‘Bigger is not Better’.
We’ll be launching this new report at our 21st March mini conference and reception, where we’ll also be joined by representatives from Government, opposition parties, and some of our exemplary members as part of a panel discussion with Chair of the High Streets Task Force, Mark Robinson.
If you still can’t get enough of Levelling Up events then I’d suggest you sign up to attend our next APPG meeting, held online at 2pm on the 16th March. We’ll be looking to engage parliamentarians on the role districts can play in Levelling Up, and we’ll hearing from our APPG Chair Jane Hunt MP, Matt Leach, Chief Executive of the Local Trust, as well as from the thinktank Bright Blue. We’d love you to come and get involved so do get in touch with the team to RSVP and get hold of the joining details.
I hope to see as many of you as possible at these events, to learn from you, and to hear you help make the case for our role in delivering prosperity to all of our places. I end with the hope that one day, not too long from now, we can see future prosperity for the people of Ukraine.
Councillor Sam Chapman-Allen,
Chairman of District Councils’ Network and Leader of Breckland District Council