PARTNER | Building trust and inclusion is key to getting communities engaged with local government

From addressing citizen demands to embracing diverse perspectives, local authorities are challenged to build transparent communication and genuine collaboration to shape a more resilient and sustainable future for all

Councils and local authorities across the UK often find themselves at a crossroads, trying to balance citizen demands for practical issues related to roads, the environment, and planning while addressing significant service demands from children and adult care, primarily from a small segment of residents. While local governments recognise the importance of effectively involving the entire community, the perceived distance and paternalistic nature of councils add to the complexity of the challenges that emerge from these demands.

Trust is pivotal in the relationship between local authorities and their communities. It is a delicate balance that is easy to lose and difficult to rebuild, especially during crises. A notable barrier to trust is the sense of disengagement or exclusion felt by citizens, often exacerbated by communications from authorities that appear politically biased. For local authorities, fostering genuine, transparent communication is essential for building and maintaining trust.

Council leaders and local authorities who attended the workshop series “The Future of Local Government” examined this challenge. Held in partnership between Civica and Solace, the workshops identified six megatrends that will influence the future of local government, community engagement being one of them.

Relevance and inclusion

One significant hurdle in promoting community participation is the uneven distribution of relevant skills among local authority staff. Cultivating a culture that empowers staff at all levels to engage with the community is crucial, and this is particularly important with customer service skills across different service areas because inconsistent approaches can negatively impact the citizen experience and cause confusion among residents seeking assistance.

To resonate with citizens, local authorities must align their engagement efforts with everyday concerns. People are more interested in specific, tangible issues such as potholes, parking, and planning. Furthermore, engagement strategies must be inclusive, catering to diverse groups and generations, particularly the youth and older citizens who may not be as digitally connected.

Hands-on recommendations

The workshop series concluded with the white paper “The Future of Local Government: A Toolkit for Leaders“, a comprehensive document providing strategic recommendations to prepare local governments for the next decade and beyond. This white paper is a must-have for all leaders, equipping them with the necessary tools to navigate the future of local government.

Stay ahead of the curve with this white paper from Civica. Uncover the six “megatrends” that will define the future of local government and learn how to navigate the challenges ahead.

The white paper addresses three critical recommendations for improving participation and community engagement. One big idea is shifting the view of ‘working for’ to ‘working with’. Moving from consultation to genuine engagement involves placing participation at the core of councils’ and local authorities’ activities.

Early and proactive engagement can enhance residents’ quality of life, reduce costs, and foster community resilience and sustainability. This trend of increased participation and community involvement is not just a strategy but a necessary evolution to ensure that local government remains effective and relevant in meeting the needs of its citizens.

PublicTechnology staff

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