European elections week is finally here. From the minute it was confirmed that the European elections were going to take place on 23 May, there have been non-stop opinion pieces about what it means for Britain – all of them couched in terms of ‘national impact’.
But what about the conversation that sits below this national level, that asks what the EU elections mean for local government? And how can those in the sector use the results on bank holiday Monday (don’t expect any announcements before then) to help them plan, design and deliver public services in the future?
Here are my recommendations about how local government should respond to the outcomes of the election:
- Don’t allow the national preoccupation with Europe and Brexit to distract from the needs of both local government and residents. There is a lot of opportunity for positive (and much needed) change – but gridlock at a national level should not be an excuse for replicating it at a local one.
- Keep focused on the big developments that are coming over the next year. From 2020 councils are going to depend on business rates and council taxes for the majority of their funding. The best way they can respond to these changes is to manage avoidable demand and focus on getting the best outcomes for local people – because such an approach costs less overall.
- Don’t conflate the results of the European elections with all political opinions. Elections are a good opportunity to look at changes in an electorate, but that doesn’t mean that a general election (which could be imminent) will reflect the results of the EU elections. Some local councillors will be nervously awaiting the results and reading the outcome as a sign about their party’s future in the area – but councils need to manage nerves and ensure that local politicians are still making tough, necessary decisions and rolling out transformation.
- Look at what the election can say about your area – European elections use proportional representation based on geographical regions, and can offer insight (albeit broadbrush) into how political opinions in those areas are moving. The IMPOWER INDEX can provide local authorities with more detailed information about how they are performing compared to their region and statistical neighbours, to help inform development priorities.
- Be nice and kind to those weary faces in your local polling station. I’ve worked in 6 elections (2 national, 2 local, 1 mayoral and 1 referendum). 16 hours is a long time when list counting, form filling and smiling at political puns.
If you want advice about keeping your organisation focused on the future, do get in touch.