Sector support offer for councils

Publication cover reading: "Sector support offer 2022/23"
The following summary sets out our sector support offer available to councils in 2022/23, spanning leadership, governance, finance, workforce, place-based vision and demand.

Introduction

Local councils are pillars of our communities. Whether by supporting those who are most vulnerable, responding to climate change or driving improvements in economic growth, councils have a critical role in delivering the best outcomes for residents. Our sector support offer is shaped through direct engagement with councils to ensure that they have the support they most need to improve and respond to a wide range of challenges and opportunities.

Funded by the UK Government, our updated sector support offer enables councils to keep delivering critical services to communities while helping to drive change and improvement across all regions. Our leadership programme identifies and shapes new and existing talent and supports councils to represent, and deliver for, the communities they serve. Our governance and finance offers support councils to improve performance, systems and capacity, including through financial resilience and data-informed decision-making. We also provide councils with comprehensive support to empower them to deliver their place-based visions for local priorities such as climate change, housing, devolution, building safety and community engagement. Additionally, our workforce and demand programmes enable councils to build capability and capacity to support them in managing demand pressures.

We offer additional improvement support through our children’s services programme and Care and Health Improvement Programme (CHIP) (adult social care and public health), funded by other Government departments, alongside other improvement programmes including our cyber security, digital and technology and One Public Estate (OPE) programmes and our Planning Advisory Service (PAS).

Leadership

Our leadership offer supports councils to address key issues facing local government and to develop the skills and experience needed to deliver their objectives as leaders of place and community.

Attracting new talent

Our leadership programme identifies and supports new and diverse talent at both member and officer levels, offering opportunities including:

  • the National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) which supports councils to build capacity by placing an annual cohort of high calibre graduates within local authorities each year
  • an expanded 'Be a Councillor' campaign aimed at attracting a greater diversity of candidates – promoting and providing key information about the role of councillors and councils and highlighting what help is available to make a maximum impact in local government (to be published by May 2022)
  • a new programme to train senior local government executives, focusing on those from underrepresented groups, providing executive coaching and mentoring support to senior officers (to be launched by April 2022).

Political leadership, training and development

This extensive programme offers comprehensive support to all councillors – whether they are new in post or looking for an opportunity to develop critical leadership skills – to deliver more effective outcomes for communities and progress their careers. This programme includes:

  • our political leadership training offer to support councils to build greater leadership capacity and develop local politicians at all stages from their selection to becoming a leader – such as our flagship leadership offers to councillors at various career stages, including face-to-face training (such as our Leadership Essentials, Next Generation and Leadership Academy programmes and our one-day masterclasses and online training resources (including e-learning modules and councillor workbooks)
  • political leadership programmes to support councils to respond to live issues as and when they emerge
  • a new and comprehensive induction package offering a range of learning opportunities across different platforms (on topics such as personal safety) which equip new councillors to embark on their political careers with confidence (to be launched following local elections in May 2022)
  • leadership development networking events, including for underrepresented groups such as black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME), and young, councillors.

Council officer leadership programme

Working in partnership with SOLACE, we offer bespoke development programmes, advice and training to council officers to increase their skills, improve council capacity and help to develop and enable local leaders to deliver positive change for residents and partners, including through:

  • our IGNITE programme, which provides a bespoke leadership programme for local government chief executives and offers chief executives the opportunity to work through their individual and system leadership challenges together to further develop their understanding of their roles
  • our Total Leadership programme, which is aimed at senior-level executives preparing to step into their first role as chief executives in the next few years
  • our Springboard development programme, designed for future leaders who have been recognised as rising stars of local government, in which each delegate is paired with a chief executive or director-level mentor and takes part in several workshops to cover topics such as systems leadership, place-shaping and local governance finance.

Support for disabled councillors and candidates

Our offer provides councillors, and those hoping to stand for council elections, with support to enter local government alongside development opportunities, including:

  • a coaching programme for disabled councillors to support them as resilient and confident leaders of their communities
  • a campaign to attract more people with disabilities to stand for council elections and a new ‘Be a Councillor’ guide for disabled candidates who are considering standing for the 2023 elections
  • a bespoke leadership development programme for disabled councillors, which provides councillors with unique networking opportunities and support.

Civility in public life

There are growing concerns about the impact of increasing public intimidation and toxicity of debate on our country's democratic processes at a local level. We provide councils with a range of support to address issues related to civility in public life, including:

  • support to councils and councillors to embed good standards of behaviour
  • support to handle issues of abuse and intimidation in-person and online, including through a refreshed councillor guide
  • webinars, events and guidance on key aspects of civility in public life, including respectful debate, online safety and personal safety.

Council improvement, peer support and governance

Good and effective governance is integral to council performance. Our peer support and research and data offers are available to all councils and encompass a range of tools and support to enhance councils' capabilities in this area.

For further details about the support outlined below, please contact the LGA principal adviser for your region.

Regional support programme

Our regional support programme utilises expert peers and regional support teams to provide councils with a suite of options, including tailored and bespoke offers, including:

  • councillor and council officer peer support to support councils in building greater resilience and political and managerial capacity
  • mentoring by expert officer and councillor peers to support councillors and officers in delivering priorities and managing challenges
  • support to councils to address severe performance and / or financial issues, including guidance and support
  • advice and assurance regarding organisational leadership, governance and risk management
  • mediation to support relationships between senior councillors and / or officers
  • tailored support to councils around developing devolution deals
  • top team development for senior political leadership teams to enhance decision-making and leadership capacity
  • political awareness support for officers including monitoring officers
  • bespoke finance support, including access to financial improvement sustainability advisers (FISAs) – see our financial resilience offer for more information
  • service-specific reviews responding to local challenges
  • support to embed better equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) practices, including equalities peer challenges and tools and resources to address EDI issues within the workforce – see our workforce offer for more information
  • council officer and / or councillor development sessions for specific councils
  • regional networking events including shared learning opportunities.

Post-election support (including change of control)

After local elections, support is available to all councils – with targeted support available to councils that experience a change of control or leadership. This support, provided through regional support teams and our expert network of peers, helps to make political transitions smooth and ensure that councillors and council officers have access to resources and support to deliver effectively in their roles. The resources and support available through this offer draw on our Regional Support Programme and include:

  • bespoke support and advice tailored to member and officer support needs across areas, including governance, organisational leadership and more
  • mentoring by expert peers, providing members and officers support to carry out their roles
  • top team development for senior political leadership teams to enhance decision-making and leadership capacity
  • officer and / or member development sessions on topics including chairing skills and scrutiny as well as induction events for new members
  • mediation to address challenges in relationships between senior councillors and / or council officers
  • our Changes in political leadership hub, which links to our complete range of post-election tools and support.

Peer challenge and remote peer support programme

Our highly valued peer challenge and remote peer support programme provides wide-ranging and flexible support to councils – supporting them to improve, address live issues and promote effective governance. This programme includes:

  • Corporate Peer Challenges (CPCs) and Finance Peer Challenges – supporting councils to improve across areas including local priorities and outcomes, organisational and place leadership, governance and culture, financial planning and management and capacity for improvement
  • service-specific peer challenges – including communications, equalities, housing, planning and fire and rescue
  • new peer support programmes, including a peer challenge on social housing and a remote peer support offer on climate change (to be launched by June 2022)
  • Remote Support Panels, providing a virtual platform to explore a specific area or area/s, such as recovery and renewal, priority setting, place leadership, governance and/or capacity to deliver with a panel of senior officer and member peers
  • Bespoke Remote Peer Support, offering remote 'onsite' activity to provide councils with a robust process to examine a specific area in depth with focus areas including governance, tourism, transformation and communications.

Further governance support

We offer councils further governance support through our partnership with the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny (CfGS), which supports councils in delivering improvements across their overview and scrutiny functions. Support provided through CfGS offers access to tools and resources across a broad range of governance issues, such as cultural and behavioural factors critical to dealing with risks to good governance and wider corporate health. This support includes:

  • direct and bespoke support to councils with enhanced challenges
  • research support, including a series of publications responding to needs identified through work undertaken by councillors and officers in scrutiny networks
  • governance support to networks of authorities, including to combined authorities, through the development and dissemination of good practice
  • national webinars on topics relevant to those involved in scrutiny, focusing on developing an understanding of emerging national policy issues and trends
  • an annual survey of overview and scrutiny, resulting in a report that highlights practical improvement actions, anchored by the statutory scrutiny guidance, informed by examples of good practice.

Improvement through data

Our research and data offer provides councils with access to performance data and tools and support to improve decision making, transparency and service design through data-driven decisions, including:

  • free access to LG Inform – our powerful data benchmarking platform, which uniquely integrates thousands of local-level data items within an all-in-one system, including access to reports on topics of importance such as health and social care, community safety, planning and environment, as well as comparative financial and Value for Money (VFM) to provide councils with a data-driven approach to achieving greater savings
  • training and development opportunities on topics such as predictive analytics to provide councils with tools and support to achieve data-driven outcomes at their authorities.

Email research@local.gov.uk for more information about our research and data offer.

Finance

Effective financial leadership and sustainable financial management, underpinned by timely and comprehensive audit and scrutiny, are integral to councils' success and overall resilience. Our support offer includes financial resilience and procurement support to ensure improvements across these areas.

Financial resilience programme

Our expanded financial resilience programme offers councils bespoke and targeted support, provided through finance associates – financial improvement and sustainability advisers (FISAs) – and regional support teams, who often work collaboratively with other expert professionals and member peers. This offer, informed by regional intelligence and data, also provides support and training to finance and audit chairs. It includes:

  • dedicated support to councils facing significant financial challenges, including councils receiving exceptional finance support from central Government
  • Finance Peer Challenges (peer reviews) which dovetail with Corporate Peer Challenges and look at how councils are setting and making decisions in relation to their financial strategy
  • facilitation of regional forums for audit committee chairs to help identify systemic audit issues and support councils to improve the timeliness of the completion of external audits (email ami.beeton@local.gov.uk)
  • a new programme of financial governance training which is open to all members, providing support on how to monitor financial outcomes and hold officers to account for delivery
  • a finance induction event open to all newly elected councillors (to be held after local elections in May 2022)
  • our Leadership Essentials programme for leaders, cabinet members and audit committee chairs, including a new offer for cabinet members from across all disciplines to better integrate financial matters with service issues and Value For Money (email grace.collins@local.gov.uk)
  • opportunities to identify financial staffing capacity challenges
  • a new chief financial officer (CFO) mentoring scheme, with a focus on providing support to newly appointed officers – to launch by March 2023 (email alan.finch@local.gov.uk).

For further details about this support, please contact the LGA principal adviser for your region.

Procurement

We continue to provide a centre of expertise on procurement and commissioning for local government to support the delivery of council policy priorities. Our procurement support offer provides councils with opportunities to build skills and understanding to address key challenges and develop capacity to achieve local ambitions, offering:

  • access to advice on responding to reforms and market volatilities, as appropriate
  • networking and learning opportunities as well as engagement opportunities with key suppliers, including on key procurement issues such as net zero and modern slavery
  • support to embed social value in procurement decision-making within councils
  • access to training on ‘The Sourcing Playbook’ to support officers to build an understanding of procurement approaches and provide opportunities to share procurement issues.

Email productivity@local.gov.uk for more information about our procurement offer.

Workforce

Challenges surrounding the capacity and capability of the local government workforce are enhanced across the sector, particularly following the impacts of COVID-19. Our sector support offer provides comprehensive support to councils that recognises and responds to significant needs of the local government workforce alongside management of national pay negotiations.

Supporting workforce

Our supporting workforce offer helps councils to enhance organisational capacity through support such as:

  • apprenticeship support, including a programme of general advice and guidance, a webinar programme, updates and expansions of our guidance notes and toolkits
  • targeted workforce support or advice, including bespoke support related to workforce planning
  • specialist HR and employment law advice, as well as mediation and investigation support, carried out as part of the Joint Negotiating Committee procedure; and promoting, researching and supporting councils' internal equalities, diversity and inclusion work
  • provision of key workforce and employment relations information, including FAQs, guides and workforce e-bulletins to deliver guidance and information regarding key local government workforce developments.

In addition to the above, the LGA acts as the secretariat and officer function for the National Joint Council (NJC) for Local Government Services in the various collective bargaining units within the local government and associated workforces. We progress negotiations covering the pay and core terms and conditions covering over 1.9 million local government workers as well as conducting national industrial relations engagement for chief officers, chief executives, teachers, and an array of other collectively bargained groups.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

Our equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) offer provides councils with tools, resources and learning to ensure that services are developed effectively in line with their equalities' duties, such as:

  • access to targeted and updated resources, information guides, webinars and additional support to councils to develop their knowledge base and the application of equalities duties
  • action learning sets for councils related to the co-design of policies and services, including how to substantially integrate equalities considerations within these processes.

Place-based vision

The Local Government Association is committed to supporting councils to deliver their place-shaping ambitions, offering a range of support to deliver on devolution and priorities such as housing, climate change, local transformation and community cohesion and safety. We provide councils with additional tools and support to communicate effectively with the communities they serve and enhance local pride in place. 

Devolution and Levelling Up

The publication of the Levelling Up White Paper has expanded and extended opportunities for devolution, opening it for the first time to any area of the country that wants devolution. Our support offer provides councils with tools and support to understand and respond to the new devolution framework and governance implications. We also support combined authorities, including combined authorities with 'trailblazer' deals. Support includes:

  • bespoke support to councils that collectively want it including to consider options for devolution deals and as and when they embark on negotiations
  • peer support and peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing opportunities for councils on similar devolution pathways, including support both for members and officers
  • webinars and events to support and inform councils considering or negotiating a devolution deal
  • sector-wide devolution and Levelling Up resources through our devolution hub, Levelling Up hub and devolution e-bulletin
  • combined authority officer networks, including HR, finance, governance, housing and planning, and communications
  • support to combined authorities to carry out improvement self-assessments
  • support to councils to develop and communicate an evidence base for devolution deals and to understand data available to them, including through our free data benchmarking tool LG Inform.

Climate change

Councils nationwide are taking urgent actions in their local areas with partners and their local communities to combat climate change and to deliver net zero carbon by 2050. Our Climate Change Sector Support Programme helps councils and residents to reach their local carbon reduction and adaptation targets. Support includes:

  • our Greenhouse Gas Accounting Tool, developed collaboratively with Local Partnerships, which provides councils with a consistent approach to calculating their greenhouse gas baseline and which has been updated to include the measurement of further Scope 3 emissions
  • our Net Zero Innovation Programme, delivered through a collaboration between the LGA and UCL, bringing together local authorities, universities and other stakeholders to address climate challenges at the local level and supporting councils to meet their net-zero objectives
  • webinars, training and guidance on net zero, adaptation, sustainable transport and green finance to local authority officers
  • resources, case studies and best practice, including through our Climate change e-bulletin, Knowledge Hub, and our climate change hub.

Community engagement and communications improvement support

Our community engagement and communications improvement offer provides councils with tools and support to better engage with communities about local priorities, including as leaders of place. Support includes:

  • a suite of support, including targeted and bespoke support, support for new councils and support relating to local government reorganisation
  • bespoke support to help councils develop a place brand and narrative, with learning and best practice shared with the sector
  • crisis communications support, including a crisis communications cohort, to support councils in responding to crisis and emergency situations
  • resources including guidance, toolkits and good practice to assist councils with developing a compelling story about their place and corporate narrative
  • pilot schemes to support councils with community engagement campaigns and share learning, including relating to local engagement and place visions.  

Economic recovery

The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 on the country's economy has brought into sharp focus the critical role that councils play in achieving economic recovery for local places. The following support is designed to help councils boost strategic thinking at a local level to address key issues, including levelling up, protecting jobs and livelihoods and supporting the long-term transformation of the economy, infrastructure, and services. Support includes:

  • provision of tools and resources for councillors and officers, including webinars, roundtables, development opportunities and case studies to support councils to tackle unemployment, address skills shortages, design healthy high streets, support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and adapt local economies to better respond to climate change challenges; to help councils to improve the digital skills of their local businesses; and to share the learning and impact of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and Community Renewal Fund
  • provision of guidance and support to councils in their convener and coordinator role to deliver a clearer jobs and skills offer through peer support, toolkits and sharing of good practice.

Housing

Local government shares the Government's ambition to deliver 300,000 new homes a year – homes that are better quality, safer, greener and more affordable. This will empower local areas and deliver higher living standards and an increased sense of community pride. Our housing offer supports councils to develop place-based visions, enhancing the role and capacity of councils to meet the local housing need of diverse communities, including through:

  • our Housing Advisers Programme (HAP), which provides specialist bespoke expertise to help councils build homes, utilise green approaches, plan for ageing populations, improve the quality of the private rented sector and more, enabling local councils to develop their local place-based vision
  • political leadership support for housing portfolio-holders and lead councillors to become better leaders of place
  • our resources, guidance, case studies and best practice which we offer through learning and networking opportunities (including webinars, events, e-bulletins and the Knowledge Hub).

Building safety

We support councils to meet their responsibilities under the Building Safety Bill to ensure all homes are safe for local communities. It includes tools and resources that help to ensure that officers and councillors understand their roles and responsibilities and, in terms of local authority building control, provides learning and networking opportunities, including political leadership support. Support includes:

  • webinars on building safety following the Building Safety Bill getting Royal Assent and the commencement of the Fire Safety Act, along with additional resources provided to councils through case studies and publications
  • a building safety political leadership programme (Leadership Essentials) for housing portfolio-holders
  • e-learning module available to officers and elected members to inform them about councils' duties as one of the regulators supporting the Building Safety Regulator
  • working in partnership with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to support its programme of engagement with local authorities in areas with high-rise buildings.

Demand

Behavioural insights

Our Behavioural Insights (BI) programme supports councils to manage demand locally by encouraging residents to take up preventative services and contribute to wider outcomes. It involves:

  • facilitation of three consortium groups to pilot using behavioural insights techniques to respond to local challenges and manage demand for public services
  • our behavioural insights podcast series focusing on sharing learning from council behavioural insights projects that have contributed to demand management of public services
  • case studies that share learning across the sector from all councils who participated in our 2021/22 programme, including trial results and interventions
  • a number of events to share best practice and provide opportunities for collaboration, including our annual Behavioural Insights Conference.

Local Partnerships

Our partner organisation, Local Partnerships, supports councils to deliver on local priorities through the following range of support:

  • support for contracting authorities with operational private finance initiative (PFI) contracts, including those about to expire and those seeking to establish new contracting arrangements
  • reviews to local authority wholly owned and partly owned trading companies
  • commercial capability support, strategic support and governance support to local authorities relating to their commercial entities
  • as part of the wider LGA Climate Change programme, support to councils particularly in relation to energy efficiency
  • support to local authority clients through the reviewing of repairs and maintenance contracts and in-house service provision, and in the resolution of issues and delivery of ‘turnkey’ offerings for councils.

Find out more about this support and the wider range of support offered by Local Partnerships