Global Local magazine: Issue 01, Australia

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Brought to you by the Local Government Information Unit

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Hannah Muirhead

Ingrid Koehler

Freya Millard

Merle Zierke


Welcome to our first edition of the Global Local magazine, brought to you by the Local Government Information Unit. We are a not-for-profit, non-partisan membership organisation. We are for local government and anyone with an interest in local democracy and finding local solutions to the global challenges that we all face.

LGIU offers local government memberships in Australia, England, Scotland and Ireland. We provide information services, briefings and analysis to support innovation, improvement and the information you need every day to support your communities. Through making connections between our core countries, it became clear that the different perspectives from different circumstances could bring fresh ideas to common challenges. That’s why we created Global Local. To highlight ideas from different places and share learning across the global local government community. Everyone, everywhere can sign up for a free account and join in.

The stories you’ll read in the pages that follow are all sourced from our weekly newsletter, also named Global Local. Each week, we explore a new topic within the wide breadth of the local government remit and showcase inspiration and best practice examples from all around the world. From interviews to case studies, and in-depth analysis to practical guidance, at the LGIU, we’ve got you covered as you strive to improve the lives of your communities.

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• A nudge in the right direction p.3

• Read the room: Europe’s innovative libraries p.5

• The sanctuary of local government p.7


• Big problem, tiny solution p.9

• Short-term rentals: gold mine or housing catastrophe? p.11


• The mystery of the vanishing toilets p.13

• A rural flush p.14

• The black hole of local politics p.16

Climate action

• Tackling nature with nature p.17

• Biofuels make the world go round p.19

• Beat the heat: the Miami-Dade way p.21

Welfare and equalities

• Building bridges with Indigenous communities p.23

• Protecting all ways of life p.24

• Uncovering what truly matters: progress to a wellbeing economy p.25

• Permanent visibility equals permanent acceptance p.26


• Young people and democracy: it’s complicated p.27

• LGIU@40 for the future of local government p.30


• Fact vs. fiction p.31

• Is data the saviour of our health? p.33


• Going online: the future of sexual health services p.35

• The legacy of the Iceland model to tackle teen substance use p.37

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A ‘nudge’ in the right direction

Behavioural insights, more popularly known as ‘nudge theory’, refers to the practice of enhancing communications or processes in ways that make people more likely to take the action you are aiming for, without forcing people into compliance.

Generally, the methods are particularly well suited to public health outcomes, such as persuading people to give up smoking, wash their hands properly, practice safe sex, drink less, or exercise more. That said, the same methods can be applied to less corporeal targets – encouraging people to report a fault; make a payment online and helping people to recycle more. Even the notoriously ambiguous aims of increasing community engagement and empowerment can be supported by behaviour change principles when properly applied.

So how can councils put behaviour change to use?

Well, one framework commonly used to help develop successful behaviour change campaigns is EAST – Easy, Attractive, Social, Timely. According to this, interventions should make the desired behaviour:

Remember: It’s important to take the time to research your audience thoroughly and discover why people behave as they do. All too often, remedial action is called for without properly understanding the nature of the problem.

A preferred action can be made easier by making it clearly understandable and simple to execute. Goals that appear difficult or long-term can be repackaged to make them feel more achievable. One way to do this is ‘chunking’: cutting complex actions down into smaller chunks. ‘Stoptober’ is an example of the difficult long-term goal of stopping smoking being chunked down into the more achievable goal of quitting for a month. Once people have managed a month, it’s more likely they will stop smoking altogether or cut down in future – the important thing is to at least get them started on that journey. An even easier way to get people to change is to set up the system so that they don’t need to actively do anything at all. When given free rein, people tend to take the path of least resistance. For example, changing pensions and organ donor registers to ‘opt-out’ instead of ‘opt-in’ is a simple way to harness the power of the default because most people won’t bother to opt out since it requires them to take action.

Change needs to be attractive. This can be in terms of presenting a short-term immediate ‘win’. For example, tax breaks are seen as complex and as a result, people disassociate from the actions needed to secure them, whereas the introduction of a 5p plastic bag charge in the UK was immediately attractive because everyone recognised the instant ‘win’ of saving money. A choice can also be made more attractive by ensuring it appears time-limited, to encourage people to act now or miss out. People attach more value to something that they think is scarce. ‘Attractive’ can also apply to attracting attention, whether this is with an arresting or controversial image, a personalised approach, or another way of standing out.

People are more likely to take a certain action if they feel that it is normal to do so. Successful campaigns often encourage the target audience to go with the social norm: for example, including a message in council tax letters to say that most people pay by direct debit can increase direct debit sign-ups. Similarly, messages from peers (whether included in a campaign from the outset or spread through social networks) have more impact than the same message coming from experts or organisations. Another aspect of human social behaviour is that we are more likely to act if we have made a commitment to do so. Asking people to sign a pledge or set a date for action increases the probability that they will see it through.

Interventions are most effective if they prompt people to change at a time when they are receptive. Take the example of design changes to food caddy labelling. The success of this project is partly due to how it reminds people what they can/can’t recycle at the exact moment they are recycling. Another example is the ‘Tick Tock Test’ campaign, which prompted people to test their smoke alarms when the hour changed. People’s habits are already disrupted as they change clocks in their houses, so it is a good time to add in an extra action that might otherwise get overlooked.


Read the room: Europe’s innovative libraries

Public libraries are facing existential challenges in our modern world of budget cuts, austerity measures and fastpaced technology. To prove it doesn’t have to be this way, we look to some European examples of innovative approaches to libraries.

The pandemic amplified the need for community spaces and digital learning areas and if reimagined with the correct care and investment, this could fulfil the untapped potential of libraries. Some European municipalities have made multi-million-pound investments in libraries over the last decade, transforming them into cultural hubs and tourist attractions as well as information facilities. Using sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s term ‘third place’, libraries are uniquely placed to host study areas, community groups, cultural events, creative spaces and restaurants or cafes. Looking at some of Europe’s largest projects, increased investment has provided benefits that far surpass those enjoyed by a typical library. Here are some exciting examples…



Finland is one of the leading countries for library services, boasting one of the highest numbers of library visits and library items borrowed per capita in the world. Helsinki’s Director of Culture once said, “libraries are the second highest-rated public service in the city, after drinking water”.

Despite being the third most sparsely populated country in Europe, 93% of Finns live within 10km of their nearest library. Poorly-connected areas are subsidised by over 140 mobile libraries, which have been running since 1913. All libraries are maintained by the Library Act, which states each Finnish municipality must provide library services that reach a regulated standard.

In the mid-2010s, Helsinki opened a €98m library called Oodi which was created to promote equality and citizenship through education. Its location, directly opposite parliament, was chosen to bridge a gap between politicians and the people. Oodi boasts a café, cinema, recording studio and creative spaces with 3D printers. Linking third places together is commonplace in the infrastructure of Finnish libraries – for example, other libraries in Helsinki are attached to supermarkets.


When the Belgium city of Ghent opened the De Krook library in 2017, it was quick to market its new public space as an all-encompassing third place. Viewed as a cultural centre rather than a traditional library, it is equipped with a restaurant and meeting spaces where visitors can enjoy views of the river running through the city. Ghent municipality abandoned plans to build a new concert venue in favour of funding the library –considering it as the most inclusive and accessible cultural space to boost footfall in the city centre.

De Krook library was instantly popular, attracting its one-millionth visitor in its seventh month. Ghent has a population of around 469,000, suggesting the opening was also supported by tourists. The library has continued to attract local community involvement by hosting a range of free regular events – including careers fairs, legal advice sessions and classes helping local people acquire basic IT skills. Diverse programmes appear to have helped increase interest in the library’s fundamental service too and since opening, library loans have increased by 10%.


The Deichman Bjørvika, located on Oslo’s harbourfront, was the winner of the 2021 Public Library of the Year. The 13,500 square meter building was opened to the public only a year prior and is spread across six storeys and is home to over 450,000 different materials. The library’s designers say the aim was to offer a variety of spaces within one large continuous space. It has been organised with more quiet and contemplative areas towards the top, giving visitors views of Oslofjord and the city’s surrounding forest-filled islands.

With the reading rooms and study rooms found on the upper floors, the first two floors feature a café, cinema, restaurant, gaming zones and a 200-seat auditorium. A ‘people’s workshop’ is located on the third floor which is home to 3D printers, sewing machines and music studios for those wanting to engage in creative practices. Like Finland, Norwegian libraries often diversify their libraries with third places – for example, other libraries in Oslo feature rooftop bars and restaurants.

Examples from Europe show that, if supported correctly, libraries have the unique capability of attracting people from all parts of society – regardless of age, background, educational attainment or interests. Although difficult to budget for in the short term, the medium to long term benefits of investing in libraries will persist and could be substantial. In fact, reconsidering libraries as a vital third place could see them return to being the cornerstone of local communities.


The sanctuary of

After every humanitarian crisis that leaves citizens displaced, the spotlight usually pans to discussions around supporting refugees at a national level and almost always overlooks the significant role local government plays.

The topic of refugees tends to focus on national level responsibilities like border issues, visa regimes, and immediate support while dismissing the fact that refugees, asylum seekers and internationally displaced persons (IDPs) settle in specific places. Local authorities in those places shoulder the core responsibility of providing crucial services like housing, education, employment, healthcare, language learning and general community integration and wellbeing. For urban municipalities, large influxes of migrants can make the scale of delivering support to hugely varied and diverse populations a key challenge. For smaller or more rural communities, the disruption of previously homogenous populations can cause tensions, while being unaccustomed to swift demographic change may highlight cracks in service provisions. But more often than not, local authorities are happy to try stepping up to the opportunities and challenges that larger waves of immigration bring. The international Mayors Migration Council say they stand ready to welcome refugees while calling on national governments to ‘urgently work with the global network of city leaders’ to expand pathways and provide humanitarian support.

In the USA, over 100 cities have declared themselves ‘sanctuary cities’ – a well-established form of local immigration policy whereby municipalities create a set of policy conditions to improve the precarious situation of irregular migrants. They are particularly effective at doing so thanks to US local governments not being obliged to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. In other governance structures, municipalities can still deploy a range of policies and services to support migrants, in some cases challenging or countering the national stance on immigration.

A Viennese project, called the Centre of Refugee Empowerment, sought to address two challenges unique to integrating asylum seekers. One was that various areas of responsibility for helping refugees were splintered among public agencies, often working in incompatible ways. The other was to adapt the services available to the individual circumstances of migrants. Language classes, for example, would need to be more intensive but also free, while skills training has to be tailored to restrictions on asylum seekers’ access to work. In one initiative, a competence check usually used to place people in work was instead used to identify a group of primarily Syrian teachers. Instead of being given a job where they would be underemployed, they were given specific training on the Austrian school system and then given places in schools as supporting teachers –more greatly benefiting the city as well as the individuals.


local government

Cities have much greater autonomy in establishing service policies versus status policies, so service-oriented initiatives can be more pragmatic. They can also be expensive, but faster access to support and integration into the economic system of a local area can certainly pay off.

Four Spanish cities have taken an inclusive approach to recognising the status and needs of irregular migrants. The initiative creates a local census that doesn’t exclude irregular migrants, and once registered a person becomes eligible for public services, including opening a bank account or obtaining a library card. The scheme also facilitates regularisation by counting as proof of residence. The Padrón Municipal effectively simplifies access to city services in the short term, while aiding cases for permanent settlement in the longer term.

In 2005, the City of Sanctuary UK launched as an umbrella organisation that provides a focus for the coordination and development of

a network contributing to building a sanctuary movement across the UK and Ireland, using action to target services rather than status. More than 100 areas, towns or cities are signed up and they provide useful advice on what councils or community groups can do to become a City of Sanctuary.

One of the biggest difficulties with integration is something local government does not possess the power to fix – uncertainty about whether asylum seekers will be allowed to stay or not, and for how long. But whether it’s through service provision, coordination, partnership, networks, lobbying, or finding loopholes to support asylum seekers and create a culture of sanctuary, local government can undoubtedly have a massive impact on supporting effective and empathetic resettlement – even in the face of national hostility.

“One of the things we’ve been advocating for here is to have a formal intergovernmental strategy in place for dealing with large-scale refugee resettlement. Local governments, I believe around the globe, do not have much influence over immigration policies – yet we are the ones that are welcoming newcomers and we are the ones helping them integrate, so we have to be at the table.”

It’s not hard to understand the growing mainstream appeal of ‘tiny homes’ with their cool spacesaving tricks, sustainability and minimalist-yet-cosy interiors. Interestingly, some charities and local authorities are now using them to alleviate homelessness – but is this really a solution?

In Seattle, where homelessness is a major problem, tiny homes have had success in relieving rough sleeping.

Sharon Lee, executive director of Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute, started the project after finding a loophole where structures smaller than 120 feet were not considered permanent dwellings, making them exempt from restrictive regulations on residential buildings. Seattle’s city council backed the initiative, giving permission for clusters of cabins and over a million dollars in funding. The fully electrified, heated and decorated houses can be put up in around 3 days (thanks to no shortage of volunteer support) and cost around $2,500 for materials. With around 300 houses built, the villages have proven to be one of Seattle’s most successful harm reduction supports for people facing homelessness, sparking international interest in similar projects.

Lee stressed that these homes are not meant to be permanent, but rather are a stopgap between homelessness and permanent accommodation.

Compared to 15% across all shelter types in the same county, 27-65% of the tiny house residents move into

permanent housing – however, it takes far longer than the regional goal of 90 days, with many living in the houses for months or even years.

What else, if not tiny homes?

The risk of tiny houses is that they can create something akin to a ‘better than nothing’ slum-like settlement while, allowing communities to put the problem out of their mind. But perhaps ‘nothing’ doesn’t have to be the alternative to which we compare them. While no nation has ended homelessness entirely, there are cities and countries that have come close, for example, Finland, Japan, Singapore and Austria. While not all places with favourable homelessness rates use the same methods, a form of ‘Housing First’ policy does accompany a high number of the success stories. Rather than conditional housing support, Housing First sees housing as a basic right and holds that solving health and social problems is much easier with a permanent home. In a US study, permanent supportive housing has been proven to be about 90% effective at preventing someone from ever returning to homelessness.

However, it’s not that simple. The same lack of affordable or available housing contributing to homelessness in the first place can make it difficult to move households off the street or out of temporary accommodation, making this approach easier said than done and potentially costly – especially for local or regional governments lacking the significant up-front funding needed.

In addition to increasing the supply of permanent and affordable housing, ending homelessness also requires an integrated strategy and concerted effort (with funding to match) across levels of governance. In Finland, Housing First services are just one part of an overall strategy that largely involves preventing people from becoming homeless in the first place through health and social care support and safety nets.

Largely, the argument for tiny houses is that they are one of the nicer forms of temporary housing, especially when well-built. Referring to the release of their Cambridge, UK report on tiny houses for the homeless, co-author Dr Johannes Lenhard said, “There


is a huge sense of wellbeing tied to simply having your own front door… We can see the effect this has in the lifestyle changes of people who have previously struggled in hostels”. The study on the modular homes in Cambridge found that they did help restore the health, wellbeing and financial security of occupants when combined with wraparound support. Costing £36,000 each, placed on land leased by a church (designed to be moveable to another free or inexpensive location if needed) the

mini-homes cost less than a person rough sleeping for two years.

It is notable that in areas with expensive land, like coastal regions or urban centres, the cost provides a significant barrier to development. In these situations, density might have an advantage in value for money, whether that be more dense versions of tiny houses such as shipping container stacks (as in Los Angeles, USA) or local/regional government purchases of hotels or dormitory-style buildings.

All in all, tiny houses have some advantages over shelters when it comes to privacy, community and a more fixed sense of place. They could be a viable and cost-effective option, but may only be so for local governments with an available or cheap lot of land to lease. While they shouldn’t be used as a permanent solution to homelessness, tiny houses can have a place as a stepping stone to permanent accommodation – but let’s keep trying to ensure people have somewhere to step to.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh was one of the most profitable cities for landlords engaging in short-term rentals because they were exempt from paying the local property and residency tax. This, combined with the lack of new and affordable housing caused a particularly severe housing crisis in the city.

To address the situation, Edinburgh City Council turned the entire city into a short-term lets control area. This

requires owners to apply for a change of activity licence which gives councils the ability to notify owners of any ‘adjoining land’ and have oversight on whether it complies with local development plans.

These measures have been opposed by platforms including Airbnb, who have circulated reports warning of huge losses for the tourism sector. However, the experience of other European capitals suggests tourism benefits can be maintained without converting every available room into a tourist rental.

Short-term rentals: Gold mine or housing catastrophe?

The low-cost tourism revolution and the explosion of collaborative industries and apps have brought about a new way of travelling that has reached every corner of the world, especially urban areas. Although tourism holds great economic benefits, this transformation has placed pressure on local government and their communities – by hiking the price of housing and limiting the availability of residential rental properties, among other reasons. Now, several councils of popular capital cities have explored solutions to mitigate the impact:


Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam was one of the pioneer cities in regulating tourist rentals. In 2014, the Council signed an agreement with Airbnb that ensured they were responsible for the behaviour of their users and helped collect the tourist tax.

The city council then created a permanent and well-resourced municipal team to prosecute infringements by platforms and landlords and an anonymous hotline to register nuisances and irregularities. The city has revised these agreements on multiple occasions to toughen fines and demands on the platforms. Inspectors can impose fines of up to €20,500 for each illegal accommodation. In addition, individual landlords are restricted to renting out rooms or houses to tourists for only 30 days a year and never to groups over 4 people – always notifying the city council.

Amsterdam has the advantage of having an important stock of public housing with reduced rent in which subletting and shortterm renting is always illegal. This distinction is important since obtaining licenses to rent social housing is increasingly difficult for middle-class individuals and families.

Barcelona, Spain

Since the Olympic Games in 1992, Barcelona became one of the most visited cities in the world. Private vacation rentals became a goldmine for some landlords in the city following a municipal decision to grant unlimited holiday let licenses in 2014. This decision worsened an already precarious housing situation, triggering large social displacement.

The city council adopted new regulations and restrictions and strengthened regulations on hotels and traditional tourist houses. They successfully lobbied the regional government to make illegal most Airbnb listings and now vacation flats must be registered with local government, meet strict quality and habitability criteria and offer a baseline of services to the visitors. They also created a website for visitors to check if they are staying in a legal flat and how to report any wrongdoings.

Owners of illegal tourist flats face hefty fines and must pay for the expenses of their guests for the remainder of their stay. Although these measures have focused on landlords, they have also repeatedly fined platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway for publishing thousands of unauthorised holiday flats on their platform. Like Amsterdam, Barcelona holds the platforms responsible for collecting tourist tax. Also, both cities have limited the number of active licenses in centric and historical neighbourhoods.

London, England

London has been navigating a severe housing crisis for a while and unfortunately, the plans to combat the crisis have so far failed to deliver. On the one hand, councils have embarked on an ambitious campaign to build public housing and purchase former public housing for affordable rentals. On the other hand, current legislation on tourist rentals has failed to stop 7% of all properties in the Greater London Area from being rented out as illegal tourist apartments.

The current regulations require a tourist license for those who want to rent their property for periods of more than 90 days a year – yet, this only applies to those wanting to rent the entire apartment, opening the doors for potential loopholes. Plus, accommodation quality standards are not clearly set by this regulation.

Local government in the Greater London Area recognise they don’t have the necessary means to enforce such registrations effectively due to the strength of the market and their shrinking resources. For a city that attracts over 20 million tourists a year, this dynamic of uncontrolled tourist flats puts enormous pressure on the housing system and local services; it is also a missed opportunity to raise tourism taxes and invest in a more sustainable tourism model.

The mystery of the vanishing toilets

Around the world, free public toilets are becoming scarcer, but why? There’s no denying the obvious need (especially for the most vulnerable) and the greater good they hold for public health and clean streets – so their disappearance is a big concern for citizens and local authorities alike.

What are the problems for local government?

Unfortunately, the bottom line is usually a lack of finance to create new facilities and maintain the upkeep of existing ones. However, there’s also a cost for not providing toilets, like cleaning up street fouling and isolating vulnerable groups from public spaces.

Another burden to provisions is antisocial behaviour, such as vandalism and misuse, which contributes to a trade-off between keeping the facilities open as much as possible while also trying to protect them from negative behaviours. This may result in reduced open hours or even unavoidable closures for restoration – which comes full circle with additional costs through any maintenance, repairs, cleaning and supervision needed.

What are the solutions?

Community Toilet Schemes are one way that local authorities are overcoming some of the problems highlighted. These schemes usually involve councils paying cafes, restaurants, local pubs and shops to open their toilets for general public use. In return, the businesses will usually be required to display prominent signage, be listed online and have regular facility inspections.

The downside is access is restricted to business hours, so they cannot be solely relied upon. Plus, rural and parkland areas also require public toilet access. To address this, some councils have implemented small access fee charges as a way to leave them unattended and also assist in funding the upkeep costs.

It’s worth highlighting that access to public toilets is also partly about knowing where they are available, a problem that can only be resolved with better communication and information sharing. In response, some councils have implemented a ‘public toilets location awareness strategy’ which is definitely one of the cheaper ways to address the problem.

Other recommendations to improve public toilet access include requesting transportation networks to extend facility access to the wider public or putting direct requirements on local authorities to create a tailored toilet access strategy that addresses their specific populations’ needs.

Whatever the answer, it is clear that there is a significant role for local authorities to play in solving the mystery of the vanishing toilets. Some solutions may be spearheaded by external organisations but local government has a vital role in ensuring that everyone has adequate provisions that enable them to venture beyond their front doors confidently.


A rural flush

We chatted with, Mary Peart, Manager at Kinlochewe Community Toilets to discuss her experience running an exlocal government-owned public toilet in a rural Scottish village.

How did you get involved with the community toilets?

Back in 2018, the Highland Council closed a lot of toilets, including Kinlochewe. The message was ‘if you want them open, do something about it’ – so we did and we haven’t looked back since!

What was that process of taking ownership like?

Other organisations have reported nightmare situations, but for us it was brilliant. We just had to show that we were viable and had the support of the local community – which was very easy to do since Kinlochewe public toilets are a big ‘stopping off’ point for those travelling to Inverness or Dingwall.

What is your overall experience of running a public toilet?

I’ve become a toilet bore but it’s actually been great! The learning curve was massive, I can’t help thinking that with so many companies now taking over public toilets, there ought to be more transfer of information and sharing of experience.

It was a big challenge when we went into Covid lockdowns because a lot of the income just dried up, then suddenly, everything opened again and we were overrun because we’re in a stunning area of Scotland’s NC500. Now we’re more settled and have been able to gain funding from a variety of local and national grants that are helping us with plans for improvements.

What additional challenges does the rural area bring?

One example is people tend to not have coins anymore and want to pay online but it’s not a viable or affordable solution for us. Another issue is recruiting staff, it’s not a very attractive job and our demographic is largely retired people. One of my worries for the longer term is volunteer fatigue. The actual handson involvement is quite small and that’s made even more challenging due to the sparsity of our population.

What are your feelings about the responsibility being shifted from local government onto the community?

Although I’m glad we’ve done this, my worry is you end up getting a proliferation of little companies like ours, but how sustainable are we in the long term? It’s a shame they can’t fund them fully, but they just can’t. So, the reality is that we need to work together to make sure they stay open and we do get a small monthly income from the council.

Why do you feel like this charity endeavour is a worthy cause?

Need, essentially. We’re an ageing community and a lot of people need to use those facilities. We also have one of the few accessible toilets in the area that you can drive up to, and for that reason, some people come specifically to us. To me it’s not charity per se, it was a need that needed to be addressed in my local community.


LGIU who?

LGIU Australia is a partnership between LGIU and SGS Economics and Planning. We are a not-for-proft membership and local government information service that support local government in Australia and connects you to the sector in the UK and Ireland. That’s who

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LGIU why?

Local government is at the heart of our communities. Local democratic institutions build better places, deliver better services and help people thrive. Thriving communities and healthy local democracy go hand-in-hand. And strong local democracy is the only way to safeguard our national democracies. That’s why

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The black hole of local politics

There is perhaps no local issue that unifies political parties so much as the dreaded pothole.

No one likes them, everyone thinks they should be filled more quickly, and there’s no easier way for a local politician to grab a few column inches than by grimly pointing at one. Globally, we are witnessing an increase in extreme weather conditions, which bring the perfect conditions for the formation of even more potholes – so unfortunately, this hot topic will undoubtedly be a continuing burden.

So how exactly do potholes form?

Paved roads typically have a surface of asphalt and a subsurface of compressed gravel. Of course, this can vary with different thicknesses of asphalt and sub-surface and sometimes different compositions of road surface – such as concrete for high volume and high-speed roads or when you really want to get fancy, concrete and asphalt.

No matter how good your road surfacing is, eventually cracks will appear. The simple truth is that no road surface is permanently durable. Once the surface is cracked then it becomes easy for water to seep into the ‘unconsolidated’ subsurface, then when temperatures drop below freezing, the ice expands into the voids creating larger voids and damaging the surface more. Add more water and more traffic and hey presto, potholes!

The pothole dilemma

Some road surfacing is pretty darn durable but very expensive. It’s almost certainly not worth putting concrete roads in residential areas. There will always be a trade-off between durability, resurfacing costs and patching up the holes and cracks. But increasingly, councils are facing the trade-off between repairs and payouts to motorists whose cars have been damaged and cyclists who have been injured or even killed. As a result, already cash-strapped councils are seeing more calls on their budgets as motorists make more compensation claims, which puts deeper holes in highways budgets.

So what’s a councillor to do?

Some councillors have put the onus on drivers to be more careful and take responsibility to avoid raiding maintenance budgets for compensation. Others have gone the opposite way and taken on the task of filling in potholes with their own two hands – of course, not every councillor has that skill set or resources!

Perhaps neither option is suitable to all, but there is a third option other than posing for the local paper with a glum expression and a finger pointing toward the earth, councils need to advocate more strongly for fairer and more responsive funding systems for local services to ensure notorious and pesky problems like potholes are addressed in a timely manner and not left to fester into something much bigger.


Why use nature-based infrastructure?

NBI can contribute to environmental quality and avoid disruption by emulating natural systems. In comparison, traditional ‘grey’ infrastructure (e.g. dams, undersized culverts, seawalls, water-diverting levees and canals) can cause declines in diversity and are expensive to maintain. NBI can also save money and limit natural damage. It is estimated that during Hurricane Sandy, wetlands saved more than $625m in property loss, and neighbourhoods behind marshes saw 20% less property damage.

A combination of built and natural infrastructure can provide additional protection against erosion and flooding. For example, coastal NBI co-benefits include things like new commercial and recreational fish habitats, enhanced biodiversity, better natural aesthetics and improved water quality. In an urban context, nature-based flooding solutions can address the multifunctionality between drainage management, habitat provision, and population health and recreation.

Tackling nature with nature

Thanks largely to climate change, rising sea levels, and urbanisation, the frequency and intensity of flood events for both coastal and inland communities has increased worldwide – as has demand for flood protection.

Investments in infrastructure are urgently needed to ensure community safety and prosperity. However, at a time when both climate change adaptation and mitigation are more important than ever, the infrastructural methods chosen should not risk damage to ecosystems or natural resources. As a result, engineers and scientists have developed methods to build infrastructure in ways that involve or mimic natural landscape features, named ‘nature-based’ infrastructure or systems (NBI).

The key takeaways

• Successful implementation requires strong collaboration across departments.

• Green infrastructure assets require ongoing management beyond the planmaking process.

• Engaging experts from a range of disciplines (i.e. hydrology, ecology and engineering) is a must, due to the complexity of recreating natural systems.

• NBIs provide an opportunity to align projects with conservation, development and poverty alleviation.

• They can create the possibility for collaboration between governments, local communities, NGOs, and the private sector.


Wallasea Island, England –coastal flood protection

Following the prediction of an ‘inevitable’ large flood – which would cause significant disruption and economic loss – the Wallasea Island Wild Coast project was initiated to create a wetland landscape of mudflats, salt marshes, lagoons and pasture for the purposes of coastal defence. The project relied on collaboration between the Royal Society for the Protection of

Birds, various government agencies, scientists, consultants, and stakeholder consultation.

In addition, the benefits of this project include the capture of 2.2 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year, improved habitat creation, waterborne nutrient processing, and increased fish stocks and health. Additionally, costs were avoided not only for loss of built assets in a flood event but also compared to grey flood defence infrastructure.

Fingal, Ireland – local plans for green infrastructure

In Fingal, early promotion of green infrastructure made it a key strategic asset for the county’s development plan, including integrating the spatial framework for biodiversity conservation fully within the land-use planning framework. Green infrastructure assets such as parks, open space, sustainable water management, archaeological and architectural heritage and landscape were also identified utilising the council's GIS system to map and present data.

Illustrating this process is the Portmarnock South Local Area Plan –while creating a new residential area that housed over 3,000 people, the council considered green infrastructure as a core tenet of the design. This included protecting two internationally important sites for biodiversity and creating a variety of green spaces as interconnected zones, including parkland for migratory birds, arable crop areas for native bird species, and sustainable urban drainage systems integrated throughout the plan.

Malmö, Sweden – urban flood protection

The neighbourhood of Augustenborg previously suffered from floods caused by overflowing drainage systems, alongside socio-economic decline. The flooding was leading to extensive damage of local property and restricting access to transport routes. To minimise flood risks, the ‘Ekostaden Augustenborg’ initiative, carried out by

the city council in partnership with a housing company, saw the area install a Sustainable Urban Drainage System (SuDS). Green roofs, ditches, retention ponds, green spaces and wetlands were created under the project, and as a result, rainwater run-off halved. Co-benefits of the system included improved water quality, lower carbon emissions, aquifer recharge and increased biodiversity through the creation of new wetland habitats.

Maui County council member, co-founder of Pacific Biodiesel and Board member of ICLEI, Kelly King, shares her belief that the world needs more community-based climate change solutions. She explains how biofuels can support a circular economy.

In Hawaii, climate change is at our shores – sealevel rise erosion, increased storm destruction, the decline of endangered species and fragile ecosystems, and threats to traditional indigenous culture are just some of the impacts expected to worsen. As a result, the window for meaningful action to transition away from fossil fuels, reduce emissions, and avoid the worst impacts of climate catastrophe is rapidly closing. Hawaii’s governor previously made the bold statement that net zero, carbon neutrality, is not enough. We must pursue climate change solutions that achieve carbon negative results.

In 1995, my husband and I founded Pacific Biodiesel in Maui as a recycling solution for our island. For almost three decades, we’ve been diverting waste (used cooking oil and grease trap material from local restaurants), recycling it and processing it into one of the most important commodities –renewable fuel. Our company is a model for the circular economy because we’ve done it in a way that provides jobs and keeps revenue in the local economy. Today, we sustainably farm sunflowers and other crops to create culinary oils for local restaurants, then later collect and recycle the used cooking oil to produce more biodiesel.

Community-based agriculture for energy is such a powerful solution for climate change, especially biodiesel which has one of the lowest carbon footprints of any fuel. When we make it out of used cooking oil, we keep that potentially hazardous waste out of the landfill. When we make biodiesel

from virgin oils, we let the plants do the hard work of converting sunlight into liquid oil, and sequestering carbon is part of our regenerative farming process. Above all, mitigations to climate change need to include a just transition. Inflexible solutions often leave behind less fortunate, vulnerable populations.

Biodiesel is an industry that’s still growing and unfortunately still not getting the recognition it deserves. Perhaps the industry has been invaded by large corporate interests to the point of engendering scepticism, but I believe there is a community-based aspect that can bring us back to the local solutions it began with.

There are great opportunities for participation at ground level through agriculture and local jobs –both allowing rural communities to participate in climate mitigation and renewable energy while reaping direct economic benefits. The current fossil fuel infrastructure could easily be repurposed for biofuels, and the capacity for backup power generation provided by locally produced biofuels will be critical to disaster response.

I’m invigorated by the collaboration among Hawaii’s federal, state and county government leaders and our local communities to initiate broader, faster action to help turn the tide on climate change, together. Let’s keep talking, keep equity in mind, study the facts and remain flexible!


A little bit of Global Local every week

At LGIU we are constantly staggered by the innovation, ingenuity and dedication of our local government colleagues around the world. There is too much going on out there to fit into one magazine – or even one hundred magazines.

Make sure you sign up for LGIU’s FREE Global Local bulletin

Our Global Local bulletin brings you a world of local government straight to your inbox every week. We focus on a different theme in each edition and spotlight the best insights, case studies and practical examples.

Sign up now to gain access to:

Original long-form features from the LGIU team, including interviews and policy comparisons.

Additional reading from our content archives, shedding more light on the week’s theme.

Inspiration and innovation from local government in various countries, showing how ideas have been realised in unique communities.

Policy and resource links that can bolster your action plan or reveal new ways to approach a topic.

Beating the heat: the MiamiDade way

In Miami-Dade County, we know heat! We live in the sub-tropics and heat has always been part of our lives – even our basketball team is the ‘Miami Heat’. Yet, heat is known as the ‘silent killer’ because heatwaves threaten the health and wellbeing of billions of people across the globe and is set to only become a bigger issue in the future due to climate change.

We also know extreme heat does not impact people equally. Disadvantaged communities and Black and Hispanic people bear the brunt of the public health impacts. In 2020, a group of communitybased organisations conducted a series of focus groups and surveys among lower-income and marginalised communities in the county and found that the two top concerns were increasing economic and health risks related to extreme heat and fears of displacement due to climate gentrification.

For that reason, I appointed the world’s first-ever Chief Heat Officer (CHO) and we joined the City Champions for Heat Action initiative – a cornerstone program of the Extreme Heat Resilience Alliance. Since then, more and more councils are appointing Chief Heat Officers including Phoenix, Arizona and Los Angeles.

Appointing a CHO has helped expand, accelerate, and coordinate our efforts to protect people from heat and save lives. For example, our CHO launched a multi-lingual public awareness campaign about the risks of extreme heat and what people can do to protect themselves and others. The campaign reached over 250,000 people locally through social and traditional media, posters in public spaces, and educational programmes in summer camps. They also codeveloped a Climate and Heat Health Toolkit that informs internal and external stakeholders about what can be done to better manage and mitigate the impact.

In partnership with The Miami Foundation, we are engaging diverse groups of stakeholders and the public in the development of a detailed three-

year plan to improve our action towards preventing heat-related illnesses and deaths. This includes a Heat Vulnerability Assessment by Florida State University and a Climate and Heat Health Task Force. I’ve fast-tracked this work because of the threat heat poses to our communities and the direct effect it has on other community-wide issues like access to green spaces, safe and affordable housing, and public health. The nexus between the environment and many socio-economic issues is crystal clear.

Through our workshops and conversations, we realised that we not only needed to make policy changes but to work at a more grassroots level in our most vulnerable neighbourhoods. The CHO has now developed heat enhancement training for the County’s Citizen Emergency Response Team Disaster Volunteers. The training is provided in our neighbourhoods and upon completion, each volunteer receives a heat response tool kit with resources like a thermometer, instant icepacks, electrolytes, and cooling towels. Communities watching out for their own is a key approach in our strategy and preparing engaged citizens with the knowledge and tools to help others is priceless.

We’re also planning a ‘Heat Season’ campaign that builds on public awareness and elevates it to the level of hurricane preparedness outreach that is done every year. We want Heat Season to become part of our community vernacular and for residents to be prepared and able to recognise and address the signs of heatrelated illnesses or stress.

I am incredibly proud that Miami-Dade is leading the way in this important work. We’ve learned so much from engaging everyone, from healthcare professionals, outdoor workers, scientists, social workers, school kids, and environmentalists, among others. It truly is a community-wide effort, and therein lies the success we’ve seen so far but there is, of course, more progress to come. To all the readers out there, stay cool and stay informed!

Miami-Dade County is leading the way in addressing extreme heat. Mayor Daniella Levine Cava shares insights into the work they are doing to better understand and adapt to this challenge in a coordinated and equitable manner.

At the start of the decade, the world’s second-largest metals and mining corporation, Rio Tinto, blasted the historic sites at Juukan Gorge in Western Australia, resulting in mass public fallout and devastation among Indigenous communities. This reaction was only enhanced by the revelation that Rio Tinto had, in fact, been granted Ministerial consent to permanently destroy this sacred site and retrospectively admitted that they could have adopted alternative methods that would have kept the caves intact.

This incident, like so many others around the world, highlights the deeply troubling reality of misunderstanding, disrespect and marginalisation that are experienced daily by Indigenous and minority communities everywhere. All of which is condoned by the legal and societal structures – which, at best, isolate communities, at worst, bring them tremendous harm.

Undoubtedly, law and culture are deeply entwined. Laws reflect the culture in which they were made, and in turn, these laws reinforce that culture once made. Whether the law is just or unjust, it nevertheless shapes behaviour – and that’s the problem. Laws, policies and governing bodies in Australia and further afield are still playing catch-up while there is an urgent need to properly protect the rights and interests of Indigenous peoples today – and that can and must be addressed on a local government level.

Guidance for local government

– Respect their relationships with Indigenous peoples and communities and work to serve their interests in the same way as all citizens, as is a core responsibility of local government.

– Recognise the rights and interests of Indigenous people and ensure the delivery of local government services is in harmony with those laws.

– Amend local government acts, policies and strategies to include provisions for Indigenous communities and their values and heritage.

– Become aware of Indigenous rights and interests, including cultural heritage matters and key sites. And, advocate alongside Indigenous citizens for the protection of that heritage – just the same as you would for an old building, church or beautiful landscape.

– Integrate issues of Indigenous rights and interests into strategic and corporate planning requirements, so that these matters are not treated separately as a ‘specialised’ or ‘unusual’ area of concern.

– Lastly, expand forms of engagement with Indigenous communities, and find ways to effectively link Indigenous community governance with ‘western’ local government.

This article is sourced from Dr Ed Wensing’s LGIU briefing titled ‘law, culture and local government engagement with Indigenous communities’.

Protecting all ways of life

In recent decades, the rights of the world’s Indigenous communities have gained some significant traction across both the social and political spheres – can this inform the treatment of Roma and Traveller communities too?

A lack of respect for different ways of life has always been an underlying social issue in Western culture. For centuries, Indigenous communities (who currently represent 6.2% of the global population) have sought to remain self-governing while facing the constant pressure of central governments’ control, especially when it comes to their lands and culture. This stance to remain independent is a tiring, uphill battle, but it has resulted in policy changes on a national and international scale. As the world comes together to try and right wrongs against those who defy conventional expectations, maybe there are changes needed for Roma and Traveller communities.

Some academics argue that Roma and Traveller communities could fit the UN definition for Indigenous communities and in 2017, the Irish government recognised Irish Travellers as an Indigenous ethnic minority. The Council of Europe estimate the Roma population throughout Europe is between 8-15 million, however, 8085% are sedentary and those who continue to live an itinerant lifestyle are mainly based across Western Europe. Sadly, one consistency everywhere is that Roma and Traveller communities are often subjected to prejudice and stark rates of inequality whilst being vilified for their lifestyles and culture. In general, they have lower life expectancy, poorer educational attainment and are more likely to experience housing deprivation.

What can local government do?

One possible solution is to introduce more authorised land for Roma and Travellers to use so they can maintain their way of life without it resulting in legal intervention. On a local level, this could align with calls for more green spaces and help prevent excessive urban expansion – similar to how protection of Indigenous land results in more natural spaces. On a national and international level, this brings forward the possibility of creating a network of land that could take the financial and organisational pressure off individual local authorities. With this approach, there may be room to address some of the other core issues that impact these communities, such as providing better healthcare and offering security for those in designated land sites to ensure safety and accountability. As always, on the ground, it falls on local authorities to facilitate dialogue between the traveller and settler communities under their jurisdiction.

Ultimately, in a time where great emphasis is being placed on how we treat each other, no matter our differences, no group should be overlooked. There is certainly an end goal to strive towards which prioritises community reconciliation without enforcing cultural eradication, and perhaps that can be found by taking a leaf out of the emerging policies for Indigenous peoples.


Uncovering what truly matters: progress to a wellbeing economy

Looking beyond traditional economic measures like GDP, allows us to dive into Australians’ everyday experiences and overall wellbeing.

For over a decade, SGS Economics and Planning has been reporting on the state of Australia's economic performance across cities and regions. Building on this foundation, we’ve developed the SGS Cities and Regions Wellbeing Index (CRWI) – a groundbreaking study that examines how public policy decisions impact people's lives in different areas by considering multiple aspects of wellbeing to gain a more complete understanding of Australia's regions.

Our findings reveal distinct wellbeing gaps between regional and rural areas. These differences suggest potential disparities in accessing vital services for people living outside metropolitan areas. The Index, which will be released annually, focuses on the socio-economic wellbeing gap between residents of capital cities and those in regional areas.

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated how physical health, mental wellbeing, and the economy are deeply interconnected within communities. Where people live greatly influences their overall wellbeing and how they experience society, the economy, and climate change.

However, current data only tracks changes in the country's overall economic output (Gross Domestic Product or GDP) at the national and state levels. As a result, we have limited information about the specific impacts of policy decision and economic shifts on different regions and communities across Australia.

The CRWI aims to fill this gap by shedding light on the socio-economic wellbeing of various regions in Australia by examining the familiar GDP and breaking it down into economic activity at the local level, called Gross Regional Product (GRP).

In addition, six other wellbeing indicators are considered: income and wealth, employment, knowledge and skills, housing, health, equality, and environment. This comprehensive approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of people's experiences in different areas. Supported by an interactive dashboard, the CRWI encourages users to understand how their area is performing across all seven wellbeing indicators, how this compares with other areas and critically, what this might mean for developing federal, state and local responses.

Explore the report and interactive dashboard at

“The story of Australia’s cities and regions is one of spatial inequality –where you live strongly influences your experiences. This can be felt within our cities, but also between our cities and regions. Understanding these spatial differences is vital for a stronger economy, and stronger communities."
Alison Holloway, CEO, SGS Economics and Planning

We chatted with Carl-Austin Behan OBE DL, the youngest and first openly gay Lord Mayor of Manchester, UK (2016-17) and the current LGBTQ+ Adviser to the Greater Manchester Mayor, to pick his brain on how to run Pride events.

When it comes to organising Pride events, Carl thinks the key is community engagement: “Work with the friends’ groups, local charities, schools, churches in the area and community leaders – who are quite the force and have their ears on the ground. Facilitate but don’t dictate how it should work.” Carl believes there is no one-size-fits-all for Pride events, it all depends on the scale and type of event and they should be varied and diverse to best meet community needs.

For local authorities, Pride is also an opportunity to bring tourism to the area, although engaging with businesses and sponsorship can pose challenges. Carl warns: “When you’re flying the flag, make sure it’s not just people rainbow washing – it’s about the fact that they believe what they are signing up to and what they are involved in.” He recommends asking commercial companies to pay to be involved and then using their contributions to cover costs like road closures. This approach can ensure that local community groups and charities still have free entry.

Carl identifies cost as the biggest challenge for local authorities, “We all know that grants are disappearing, but as much as possible, try and keep it free so everyone feels included. As soon as you put any sort of charge on there, it can stop people from getting in.” However, Carl does suggest that you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for donations – just be totally transparent about where the money is going and how it helps keep the event free for future years.

On that note, Carl flags that another major challenge is people who question every penny that is spent. “There are

comments like: ‘If you’re putting on a gay pride, why are you not putting on a straight pride?’ Which are ridiculous! When was the last time that you know two straight people got attacked for being who they are?” As a result, Pride event security and safety are vital to consider, “You never know who is going to turn up at these events. You could end up with some people who are very homophobic, so you’ve got to always take that on board and make sure that people feel safe in these spaces.”

Most important of all, when organising any Pride event, local government should focus on making sure the event aligns with the true origins of Pride –inclusivity. Carl advises to “Make sure everyone feels included right from the start. Work with all the communities within the LGBTQ+ community, people who are queer of colour, and disability groups. I’ve seen so many times where ‘accessible friendly’ means just a small raised platform in front of the stage but they’ve not thought about access through the whole site.”

Although organising and pulling off a successful Pride event can be a huge task of its own, it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the work that local government needs to be doing to improve LGBTQ+ safety and inclusivity within their communities. Carl closes on this crucial point: “It’s about making sure the community groups feel like they are a part of their local authority all year round. If you’re going to fly the flag on Pride Month, make sure you’re doing it all year round. I think one thing for me is permanent visibility is permanent acceptance.”

Young people and democracy: it’s complicated

Participation in healthy democracies can take many forms, such as voting, signing a petition, volunteering, campaigning on an issue or standing for election. Worryingly, research and trends show that young people nowadays are participating far less in civic life than ever before – what is going on?

There is an ongoing debate about whether young people are losing confidence in liberal democracy. Some research appears to show a decline in support, like not voting in elections or joining unions or political parties. However, perhaps more concerning is the worrying loss of trust in politicians and democratic institutions, signalling an increase in anti-democratic values. Adding to concerns, is the fact that young people are hugely under-represented in elected bodies. This can create a vicious cycle whereby young people’s views and concerns are unrepresented, leading them to increasingly to see politics and democracy itself as irrelevant to their interests, making them less likely to engage. On the flip side, it is argued that young people do care about politics and are motivated to engage on issues that concern them, though their preferred modes of engagement may

differ from previous generations. Moreover, some argue that Millennials and Generation Z are no less dissatisfied than other age groups with democracy as a system, and that discontentment is driven by other factors than age.

Of course, there is a range of reasons why today’s young people may have different views from previous generations. Young people are learning about politics and civic life in the context of globalisation, digital technologies, mass migration and urbanisation. Their beliefs and behaviours are shaped by the experience of growing up in a more complex and insecure world. As democratic governments everywhere struggle to respond to the big challenges (such as casualised low-paid work, unaffordable housing and climate change) there is a growing gap between what gets delivered, and the concerns and views of young citizens.

What does this mean for democracy?

While the evidence on young people’s views is mixed, there is broad consensus that it is good for democracy for young citizens to be actively engaged in the political process and to feel that they have a voice. In order to improve youth engagement, it is important to understand what interests and motivates young people in relation to politics, as well as to address potential obstacles to their participation.

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University in the US advocates a shift from ‘mobilising voters’ to ‘growing voters’. CIRCLE focuses on the structural factors that lead to low levels of engagement – including income inequality, racial injustice, educational attainment, political polarisation and the prevalence of civil society/non-profit organisations in the local community. These make up the ‘civic ecosystem’ which should provide young people with opportunities to participate in civic and democratic life and to build the necessary skills and knowledge to be active citizens.

The European Committee of the Regions made recommendations on engaging young people and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it largely focuses on a local level. This includes:

• Programmes to increase youth participation need to go beyond voting and consider other avenues and tools, including schools, youth organisations, civil society and the family. All of these actors play a role in socialising young people in democratic norms.

• Local and regional authorities should involve young people in the design, implementation and monitoring

of such programmes.

• Programmes need to be inclusive of marginalised young people, not just the better-educated and economically advantaged.

• Consider the full range of issues in which young people are interested – not just youth policy and education.

• Civic education is important for political awareness and a sense of civic obligation; schools and informal channels can all be involved.

• Greater policy coordination between different tiers of government on youth participation.

• Better transparency and communication – local/ regional governments need to develop communication plans with and for young people, targeted at their needs and preferred channels.

Young people’s faith in democracy matters because political attitudes held when people come of age may become entrenched, leading to a long-term decline in backing for democratic institutions. Of course, young people are not a homogeneous group. Their experiences and attitudes may be influenced by inequality based on ethnicity, gender, nationality, class or location. This may affect how they participate in – and are heard by -national, state and local governments.

It would be naïve to assume that there are simple solutions to issues that are complex and structural. It is not just a case of increasing youth voter registration, encouraging turnout at elections, involving young people in decision making in ways that appeal to them or formulating policies that address their issues and concerns. Rather, an effective response may require all of these things and more.


At LGIU we believe that a global perspective takes us to the heart of the local and that localism and globalism can, indeed must, go together.

Many of the challenges local government faces are global in their scope. Climate change, demographic shock, affordable housing, community resilience, big data, AI, economic development, technology shifts to name but a few: all global trends that come home to roost in local communities across the world and all issues that governments across the world are grappling with.

At LGIU we know that it is difficult, maybe impossible, to respond to these challenges without giving local government a leading role. This is because localism is both a democratic and practical good. Innovation must be local, responsive to specific contexts and draw upon the creativity and civic capacity of local people. But, if we need localism – if we want localism to work – we also need local government as the institutional form that facilitates and legitimises localism.

Local government connects the threads and enables the things that we want to happen. It pulls together the strands – growth, services, delivery, engagement – and gives people a stake in their places. But we also know that around the world local government is, to varying degrees, prevented from playing this role to its full potential. It is hindered by financial constraints and the absence of a sustainable and autonomous funding system. It is subject to ongoing competition around the location of power and which decisions should properly reside at community, local government, regional and national levels. Finally, it is faced with declining levels of trust in political institutions which inhibits participation in civic life.

Together, with our members and the wider sector, we will be establishing a set of new ideas about how local government could work better and how we can build the firm foundations we need to navigate a turbulent and uncertain future, centred around five key questions:

What if local government was funded properly?

We know from international comparisons that different ways of funding local government drive different outcomes and that strong sustainably funded local government is the best way to address regional inequalities and create sustainable growth. What lessons can we learn about the best ways to do this?

What if central government trusted local government to do its job?

Relations between central and local government are often strained. Too often they are seen as a “zero sum” competition for power. We need a different type of conversation about this: one in which form follows function to enable services to be delivered, citizens engaged and decisions made at the appropriate level.

What if people trusted democratic institutions again?

Around the world we see a declining trust in our institutions and administrators. This trust deficit erodes civic life and prevents us from shifting to the sort of co-designed public services we need. Rebuilding public trust is a job for government at all levels. But local democratic institutions - embedded in the very heart of our communities - are in a position to be the keystone of a new understanding.

“To mark LGIU’s fortieth anniversary, we are launching a major new campaign LGIU@40: For the Future of Local Government to start a conversation."

What if people really participated in local democracy?

Trust in local democratic institutions provides a platform for community engagement. It’s important for pride in place, for well-being and for the creation of social capital but it also sets an essential platform for public service reform. We need to tap into the civic energy and creative insights of citizens and communities, to generate a culture of adaptive innovation, but we need to do this in a way that preserves institutional virtues such as representation, accountability and the balancing of competing interests

Why is local government the answer?

So we begin from a central hypothesis; based on 40 years’ experience of working with local government. If you want to solve the big problems we face you need to begin with the local. You need networks of local action and innovation. But crucially, you need these to be facilitated by local democratic institutions. What we have called connected localism: connected across geographies, across sectors and across the public realm. This is both a democratic and a practical imperative.

Over the course of our LGIU@40 campaign we will be launching a conversation about how we can power up local government to face the future. We will learn from existing reviews and from new research and together, we will map a way forward and take steps to move from aspiration to practical action.

Our aim is to develop a framework that will set local government on the right path for the next forty years, helping it to be the force for change that we all need.

Join the conversation today.

Fact vs. fiction


Refers to verifiably false information that is not spread maliciously or with the intention to mislead.


Refers to verifiably false information that is spread deliberately with an intention to deceive and mislead, whether seeking to manipulate public events or capitalise on an agenda.


This category refers to true/ partially true information that is twisted or taken out of context in a deliberately misleading way to support false interpretations.

Misinformation and disinformation are not new phenomena, prominent examples date back to the Middle Ages. What is new is the great speed and distance that false information can travel.

More often than ever before, councillors and local government staff are dealing with the consequences of misinformation and disinformation both online and offline. False information around health, new technologies and elections are all serious matters that need addressing at the government level closest to the communities. Features of online false information may include emotive language and narratives, fabricated websites falsely claiming to represent governments or businesses, and images and videos that are fraudulently altered, constructed or decontextualised.

Increasingly, people keep up-to-date with news through social media, community groups and citizen journalism rather than traditional media sources. This means traditional gatekeepers have been replaced by algorithms, which drive people towards accounts with similar interests and views to them. The line between a supportive group and an echo chamber can easily become hazy. Newspapers, news sites and broadcasters will usually do fact-checking, retractions and apologies, whereas information is less likely to be verified or withdrawn on social media. Yet, there are some significant benefits such as bringing communities together and giving a voice to people who are otherwise excluded. It is important for local authorities to understand how online algorithms work, in order to ensure their messages are seen and have more impact.

What can local governments do?

Combatting disinformation is complex. There is no single fix – to suggest that there is would be an example of false information in itself. While councils do not have the power or influence to stop the circulation of misinformation entirely, they can work hard to create a trusted positive narrative that helps to reduce the impact of false information.

Local authorities can use their platforms to present accurate, fair and open messaging about key issues as a counternarrative to misinformation. Councils can make the most of the trust that many community members have in them and engage calmly and clearly with local residents, without getting into arguments with them.

They can also create effective informative content, such as videos featuring trusted and diverse community members. All in all, there’s a need to actively cut through the noise to make a difference.


LocalResearchDemocracy Centre

Research to solve some of the key challenges facing our local democracies everywhere

The LGIU’s Local Democracy Research Centre brings together local government experts and academia in practical collabs.

Our international programme engages local authorities and universities in original research to develop new ideas and approaches for governance, municipalism and citizen participation.

Because we want all our communities to feel the benefits of thriving local democracy and invigorated local government.

Do you want to work with us on projects, collaborations, research, fellowships, exchanges and PhDs for the future of local democracy?

Get in touch.

Is data the saviour of our health?

Covid-19 forced us to collectively think more deeply about population health and how to track the ‘health’ of areas via maps. We look to the Nordic Smart City Network, to see how they’re innovatively trialling the use of data to now target other health and wellbeing issues.

During the height of the pandemic, health updates quickly became part of the global landscape, whether that be at the regional or neighbourhood level (or non-geographical groupings such as age, occupation or ethnicity). This data was used to identify the prevalence and transmission patterns of the disease. In some countries, it led to localised lockdowns or tiered systems as a measure to prevent spread. Despite some clear resistance from certain groups to the measures, on the whole, populations quite quickly adjusted to a level of sacrifice of their personal data and freedom for the sake of the collective good of their community’s health. But what if, in a similar vein – importantly being non-invasive and anonymised –population data could be aggregated and mapped to help address alternative health concerns, improving wellbeing and equality outcomes for populations? The Nordic Smart City Network (a collaboration between 20 Nordic cities across five countries) is seeking to do just that: create liveable, healthy, and sustainable cities by collecting and utilising population-level data. Here’s an overview of some of the interesting initiatives they are trialling right now:

Health Data – Tampere, Syddjurs, Vejle

This project looks to introduce data, automation and digital support to address the strains on state healthcare systems caused by longer life expectancies and changing age distributions. The aim is to get a holistic view of lifelong

health data and the interactions between behaviours and health, all the way from childhood to self-sustainability for elderly people, by obtaining a range of public and private data sources. This data can then be employed to create predictive and prescriptive preventative healthcare measures which can be fed back to citizens and local government as areas to work on.

Crowdsensed Data – Stavanger, Århus, Helsinki, Vejle and Copenhagen

For this project, city residents provide non-sensitive environmental and health data to help boost the overall health and liveability of cities. Data is already being gathered in large amounts by citizens but is locked in separate devices and rarely used in urban decision making. The project seeks to develop the crowdsensing field and use data such as on activity levels, popular routes, air quality, noise pollution and other sensors to improve public health. It will look to distribute environmental sensors to members of the community and launch partnerships with wearable tech companies such s FitBit and Polar. It is hoped that collected crowdsensing data can be used to better inform place shaping, urban planning and urban health projects.

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This project aims to use data to reduce pollution and exposure to pollution

traffic flows and public access to transport information. It specifically working model through data and urban planning. The employ radar technology while focusing on three main transport areas: parking, traffic (vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians) and bus travel. GDPR-approved

transportation data (providing more privacy than video streams) and will be coupled with pollution measurements to provide an environmental lens to transport decision-making. The data set should provide a basis for decision making, improving issues such as traffic flow and cyclist and pedestrian circumstances, but simultaneously opening up market discussions and agile piloting to get input from stakeholders will improve the process and innovation.

Sleep monitoring of citizens with cognitive impairment – Aarhus, Reykjavik and Helsinki

The aim of this project is to improve the sleep of citizens in nursing homes with cognitive impairments (such as dementia). Good sleep is shown to have significant health benefits and improve overall quality of life. The City of Aarhus is leading this cross-Nordic collaboration, having taken part in a national sleep monitoring project that showed how citizens in nursing homes can have their sleep improved by utilising health monitoring data. This new project follows on and aims to develop technology that can overcome the challenges raised previously – lack of efficient sensors for monitoring and public data protection. This innovative approach will allow caregivers to use data to greatly improve their care for non-verbal citizens who may be unable to express their experience of poor sleep.


Going online: the future of sexual health services

In many countries, local authorities play a crucial role in the delivery and dissemination of information surrounding sexual health services, yet many are met with insufficient funding. As a result, they are seeking new ways to diversify care and improve access – could going online be the answer?

The delivery of sexual health care is a complex and multifaceted system that requires collaboration between local government and many actors including pharmacies, general practitioners, specialised sexual health services, schools, and charity organisations. Voluntary and third sector organisations fill many service gaps in sexual health delivery. Many of these organisations provide advice, and access to at-home STI testing kits, contraception, and abortion services.

Sexual health services go beyond purely providing contraception, abortion, and STI testing. Delivering these services assists in preventing unwanted pregnancy and potential long-term health conditions such as HIV, genitourinary cancers, and pelvic inflammatory diseases. Furthermore, evidence suggests that cutting funding and increasing budget pressures on preventative interventions (including sexual and reproductive health services) creates a false economy in which the effects of reduced services are felt in more serious and burdensome ways in the future, both for individuals and public services.

For example, sexual health clinics can also be a gateway to identifying and signposting other services, as risky sexual behaviour can go hand in hand with addiction, abuse, and mental health challenges. Earlier interventions are

considered to be significantly more cost-effective and more beneficial overall. Plus, local councils are uniquely positioned to respond directly to the needs of their constituents and make services available that support historically hard-toreach populations, such as people of colour, immigrants and refugees, and the LGBTQIA+ community.

Despite the financial challenges, steps are being taken to try and ensure sexual health care is more accessible, in the hope that diversifying care will enable more people to access these essential baseline services. As digital services expand, investing in clear online signposting, user-friendly platforms, and provision of high-quality, easy-to-understand information is an increasingly essential next step for all.

To help relieve funding pressures, integrated services that combine the likes of family planning and genitourinary medicine are crucial. They also create opportunities for preventative intervention, swifter diagnoses and treatment pathways, and holistic sexual health and wellbeing care. Another option is partnering with third sector organisations and start-up companies who can offer innovative ways to reach populations and strengthen sexual health services.


Inspiring examples

Health tech start-up, LVNDR, in the UK, developed an LGBTQ+ inclusive sexual health online service that aims to facilitate greater access to tailored sexual healthcare. Working with Sexual Health London, the service has committed to researching the benefits of remote interventional tools and medication adherence reporting. Similarly, the digital platform Numan aims to provide accessible, stigma-free health advice, including on sensitive issues such as sexual wellbeing. These services, which have a comprehensive and ongoing understanding of service users, can provide excellent collaborative avenues for local authorities that are hoping to expand and develop current public sexual health services.

In Canada, the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control launched GetCheckedOnline as the first comprehensive online testing platform for STIs. During the first five years of the service, 16,500 accounts were created and feedback data demonstrated high rates of user approval

In Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, community health centres have been included in the province’s primary care strategy in order to enhance coverage. This approach includes partnering with Island Sexual Health, a not-forprofit with the aim of recruiting more health professionals, including nurses, counsellors, and community health workers. Greater recruitment aims to help integrate sexual healthcare into primary care offerings and create a more holistic, patient-centred approach.

Already, the move to digitalised services in sexual health has been heralded as having the potential to revolutionise health care delivery. Local authorities are well-placed to invest in these services. Innovative care delivery can be more cost-effective, especially in online settings, and analysis has highlighted that reducing spending is not necessarily detrimental or indicative of lower-quality services. Online services can require less staffing to deliver, but initial investment is required. All future investment in digital services should be directed towards providing high-quality, easy-to-understand information, presented through clear online signposting and user-friendly platforms.

However, to ensure that sexual health service delivery is comprehensive, it is vital that some focus remains on in-person care. Cost-effective and widely acceptable telehealth services are becoming more popular, in the form of online testing, telephone appointments, and digital information dissemination. However, traditionally hard-to-reach populations, including drug users, the LGBTQIA+ community and refugee and immigrant populations, may be better served by face-to-face or in-clinic appointments. Therefore, in-person appointments should continue to be made available.

“95% of users reported feeling satisfied and said they would recommend the service to others.”

Alcohol was prohibited in Iceland from 1915 until March 1st 1989. That day is now referred to as Beer Day – because beer very quickly became the most popular type of alcoholic beverage as the country’s alcohol sales and drinking habits soared.

The alcohol consumption rates increased so much that during the 1990s, Icelandic teenagers drank more heavily than most other European teens. By 1998, 42% of 15 and 16-yearolds reported having been drunk in the last month, 17% smoked marijuana regularly, and 23% of them smoked cigarettes daily. In stepped a core team of researchers and psychologists who were instrumental in reversing the problem.

Following a successful internship in the early 70s, psychology professor, Harvey Milkman, was drafted by the US National Institute on Drug Abuse to find the answer to questions surrounding why people start and continue to use

drugs and how they stop. He developed his trademark idea of behavioural addiction and this led to a breakthrough idea – why not orchestrate a social movement around natural highs?

In 1992, ‘Project Self-Discovery’ was born, which offered teenagers naturalhigh alternatives to drugs and crime. Participants were offered lessons in music, dance, hip hop, art and martial arts as well as life-skills training, which focused on improving their thoughts about themselves and their lives, and the way they interacted with other people. The young people were told it was a three-month programme, but some stayed for five years – highlighting the success.

Soon his idea caught the attention of others, including researchers Gudberg Jónsson and Inga Dora Sigfusdottir, and her brother, psychologist Jon Sigfusson. They had ambitions to take the project even further and formed what would become Youth in Iceland by launching national surveys to identify problems and attitudes associated with alcohol and drug consumption.

In 1999, with the support of the Mayor of Reykjavik, the team launched a nationwide plan to intervene and change the Icelandic teen population’s relationship with these substances. However, this involved some pretty stringent changes:



The legal age for tobacco and alcohol purchases changed to 18 and 20 respectively. In addition, all tobacco and alcohol advertising products was banned nationwide and it became illegal for children aged between 13 and 16 to be outside after 10pm in the winter and midnight in the summer. All but the advertising (and only to a certain degree) are still in effect today.


Every school in Iceland had to establish parent organisations and create a school council with parental representatives. In addition, a national organisation called Home and School was formed which focused on four major areas involving parents and their children:

• Spending more time together overall, as opposed to occasional ‘quality’ time.

• Talking to their children about their lives.

• Knowing who their children’s friends are.

• Keeping their children inside at night.


Government funding increased for sports, music, art, dance, and other such clubs, to give children alternative ways to feel part of a group and to make them feel good. Low-income families were given the chance to participate as well. For example, in Reykjavik, where onethird of Iceland lives, qualifying families were given the equivalent of approximately $300 a year, in order to help fund their children’s participation in organised activities.


School surveys have continued annually since the inception of Youth in Iceland and almost every child in Iceland completes one. This means up-to-date, reliable data is always available.


Iceland now tops the European table for the cleanest-living teens. Back in 2016, the rates of 15 and 16-year-olds who had been drunk in the previous month fell from 42% in 1998 to 5%. Similarly, cannabis use also fell from 17% to 7% and rates of smoking cigarettes every day also decreased from 23% to 3%. More positively, the time 15- and 16-year-olds spent with their parents on weekdays doubled from 1998 levels (23% to 46%) and participation in organised sports at least four times a week increased from 24% to 42%.

The legacy today…

Following the success in Iceland, the ‘Youth in Europe’ programme was launched which provided interventions at a municipal level instead of national. This version also saw great success, resulting in another expansion to become ‘Planet Youth’ with participants from countries all over the world.

Regardless of location, the method remains the same – local officials help devise a questionnaire with the same core questions as those used in Iceland plus any locally tailored extras. After the questionnaires are returned, an initial report with the results, plus information on how they compare with other participating regions is produced. The team has analysed 99,000 questionnaires from places as far afield as the Faroe Islands, Malta and Romania, South Korea, Nairobi and GuineaBissau.

Broadly, the results show that the same protective and risk factors identified in Iceland apply everywhere. Although there are some differences – for example, one location found organised sport to actually increase the risk of substance use. Further investigation revealed that this was due to the clubs being run by young ex-military men who promoted muscle-building drug use, drinking and smoking. Once the issue was identified, the local problem could be addressed by the council.

Despite this success story, it is worth pointing out, that no other country has made changes on the scale seen in Iceland. The success here relied on the relationship between the people and the state to create an effective programme that reduced the rates of teenagers smoking and drinking to excess – and, in the process, arguably brought families closer together and helped children to become healthier. Could this really work everywhere else? Not without multi-level government intervention, that’s for sure – but, that doesn’t mean there aren’t some lessons and benefits to be gained by all.


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