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The Covid pandemic has shown we achieve better outcomes when government gives local councils the freedom to deliver for their local areas. A commitment to local democracy will be my guiding principle as LGA president.
Earlier this month, I had the privilege and honour of being elected President of the Local Government Association, succeeding Lord Bob Kerslake who had stood down having been in the position for the last six years.
This is a critical time as national and local government will be looking to re-build from a pandemic that has changed so much of our everyday lives.
Local communities have faced significant and arguably unimaginable changes in the past 18 months, but through it all one thing has remained constant – the value of local leadership from councillors and their officials.
I have seen first-hand how local government is essential to delivering on the issues I am passionate about, whether it be creating the opportunities for people to get involved in sport, assisting people with their care and support needs, or providing a safety net that prevents families falling into crisis.
Local government’s leadership throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, their commitment to delivering high quality services, and their work supporting local economies are but a few examples of why we achieve better outcomes when national government gives councils the freedoms and flexibilities to deliver for their local areas.
This organisation is essential in ensuring the government doesn’t just build back better but build back fitter
Among the many critical functions of local government is community leisure. Over the past five years, I have been privileged to chair ukactive, representing thousands of leisure centres run by local authorities, and it will come as no surprise to you that physical activity is something close to my heart.
These facilities form the backbone of community activity, ranging from children’s swimming lessons and women’s exercise classes, to post-injury physiotherapy and cancer rehabilitation. We have seen over the past 15 months what a loss to communities the closure of these facilities has been.
Over the coming years, if we are to truly realise a healthy, happy society, we must ensure a sustainable footing for these community assets. This organisation is essential in ensuring the government doesn’t just build back better but build back fitter.
In this time of change, the LGA’s role working with government and Parliament to make the case for councils has never been more important. In my previous role as an LGA vice-President, it was very noticeable that never a day seemed to go by without the LGA being mentioned on the floor of the House or in the national media, and I am determined that in taking on the role of LGA President I play my role as an advocate for local democracy.
A commitment to local democracy will be my guiding principle as LGA president, as when local government speaks through the LGA with one voice it is powerful, it has impact, and it can make positive and lasting changes for councils and their communities. I look forward to working across Parliament to make sure local leadership is backed when national leaders take decisions.
It is an honour to be elected President of the LGA, a new challenge that I relish, and I hope that by working together with government and Parliamentarians that councils can continue making a difference to the lives of their residents.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is a crossbench peer and President of the Local Government Association (LGA).
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