Councils have an array of responsibilities which fall into a wide range of policy areas. Our pages below will help you learn more about individual policy areas, councils role in addressing these issues and the LGA position. Select a topic below to see the range of material we have in that subject: you'll be able to find all the case studies, news, events, publications and briefings related to that topic in one place.
- Children and young people
We support councils in helping the children, young people and families in their areas achieve the best possible outcomes. Local government plays a crucial statutory role in safeguarding children and young people, supporting their education by working with schools and providing specific support to children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. Councils, the police and health bodies have a statutory duty to work together to protect children, which includes engaging with the wider community.
Councils also have a responsibility to deliver recreational and educational leisure-time activities for young people, so far as is practicable. Through their public health responsibilities, children’s social services, adult social services (which includes young people aged 16-25) and in their delivery of cultural, arts and sporting activities, councils can also help children and young people to have mentally healthy childhoods, while providing support to those experiencing mental distress and mental health disorders.
As leaders of local places, councils and councillors have an important role in promoting community cohesion, both at strategic and operational levels. Cohesion work cuts across a broad range of policy areas including growth, housing, culture, regulatory services and supporting new arrivals.
- Community safety
Councils have a huge contribution to make towards ensuring safer and stronger communities, and a wide variety of different services support this area of work.
Successfully addressing domestic abuse requires a multi-agency public health approach to supporting victims. Police and Crime Commissioners have a clear role to play, given their statutory responsibilities for victims, but councils and other public services have an important part to play alongside the police. Councils also have a key role to play in helping to make local areas safe places to live in, work in and visit, by tackling local issues such as anti-social behaviour, domestic abuse and modern slavery.
- Culture, tourism, leisure and sport
Culture, tourism, leisure and sport are among the most used and highly valued council services. Library services alone were visited 233 million times in 2018 – more than visits to all Premier League football matches, top 10 visitor attractions and heritage buildings combined. Parks are one of the most popular council services, with an 80 percent resident satisfaction rating.
Councils currently spend over £2.2 billion on culture, sport, tourism and related services in England each year. They are responsible for a third of all swimming pools, 31 per cent of grass pitches; 13 per cent of sports halls; almost of fifth of all health and fitness facilities; approximately 3,000 libraries; over 350 museums; 116 theatres; numerous public archives, galleries, monuments and historic buildings, events and festivals.
Councils play a significant role in promoting and supporting local tourism, with investments worth £70 million per year spent on business support, visitor information and destination marketing. They also lead on planning and infrastructure development that is critical to the visitor economy and creative industries.
Our hub contains everything you need to know about devolution for local government - what has been secured, what is happening across the country and what you can do at your council.
- Economic growth
Councils play a strategic role in determining local economic priorities, working towards economic growth and job creation. They will have a key role in supporting a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery.
- Employment and skills
There are a wide range of different government departments and agencies responsible for employment and skills policy, funding and oversight. This can lead to a lack of coherence in the way policies are discussed and implemented and makes it difficult for local areas to have the ability to control their own policies and priorities. This also makes it difficult for local areas to respond effectively to local needs and deliver the employment and skills provision needed. Our pages on the LGA Work Local campaign, apprenticeships, careers guidance and adult and community education will provide you with the information necessary to make better informed decisions as councillors in this complex area.
- Climate, environment and waste
The UK has committed to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. Many councils have declared a climate emergency and set their own targets for reducing carbon emissions. The LGA offers a range of support to councils including leadership programmes, and will be developing this further in order to help councils meet their ambitions on climate change and the natural environment. Visit our climate change hub.
Councils have duties to collect and dispose of waste. The arrangements for this vary. In two-tier areas, district councils are responsible for waste collection and county councils for waste disposal. Some metropolitan districts and London boroughs are combined waste and disposal authorities, but others have responsibility for collection only, with disposal provided by statutory waste authorities. All unitary councils have responsibility for waste and disposal.
- Finance and business rates
The local government finance system is complex, has evolved over many years and has a reputation for being difficult to understand. Our local government finance pages will help you navigate this topic and better enable you to debate and agree your council’s budget and consider the financial challenges faced by the modern councillor.
- Fire and rescue
The fire and rescue service is an integral part of keeping our communities safe and secure. Fire and rescue authorities (FRAs) are responsible for delivering fire and rescue services through a variety of governance models. In some areas, fire and rescue is part of the county council. In others, it is delivered by a standalone organisation called a combined fire authority (made up of members from a number of councils). In large cities responsibility falls to the metropolitan fire authorities, while in London and Manchester it falls to the directly elected mayor (with a deputy mayor for fire). There are four areas where Police, Fire and Crime Commissioners have taken on responsibility for fire and rescue services. The Government is currently looking at reforming fire governance.
- Housing and planning
Local government shares the collective national ambition to tackle their local housing crisis, which will only be achieved with strong national and local leadership working together. As house builders, housing enablers, and landlords; as planners, place-shapers, and agents of growth, transport and infrastructure; as responsible guardians to the vulnerable and the homeless; and as democratically accountable to communities – local government is at the heart of the housing solution.
- Licences, regulations and trading standards
Trading standards, environmental health and licensing teams play a vital role in keeping communities safe and supporting businesses. They work closely with businesses to offer advice and support to help them understand and comply with regulations as well as protecting the public from rogues. Councils ensure that resource is focused on higher risk activities and non-compliant businesses.
- Severe weather
During extreme weather, the most important role a council can play is to provide local leadership. The way we respond during such incidents can define places and local areas for years to come. This resource is designed to help your council prepare for, and react to, extreme weather and ensure effective communication with your residents.
- Social care, health and integration
We support and work with councils to help their local people achieve the best possible outcomes across health wellbeing and social care. Some councils have specific statutory responsibilities for adult social services, children’s services, public health and mental health care to support the care and support needs of adults and their carers, and improve population health and wellbeing. But all councils have a significant impact on health, wellbeing and health inequalities through their many functions and duties ranging across housing, community resilience, the environment, transport, leisure and recreation, and economy to name just a few.
Through both national and local transformation and integration programmes, care and health systems across the country are joining up to improve the health, wellbeing and experiences of individuals and communities. We support councils to effectively join all services across places in order to meet the needs of a society with increasingly chronic and complex health and care needs.
The biggest influences on the health of individuals and populations are the social, economic and environmental conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. Despite concerted action over several decades, health inequalities (the gap between the healthiest and least healthy in society) are widening. We promote prevention and early intervention approaches as a means of preventing poor health, and delaying the need for care in the future. We also promote a person centred approach in all our work and highlight the importance of coproduction with communities.
We provide a range of resources, including professional development, events, advice, case studies and guidance, to help councils and councillors support improvement across social care and public health.
Good transport networks play a vital role in our communities, providing access to employment opportunities, healthcare and education, as well as unlocking economic opportunities in tourism and leisure. Councils play a vital role in keeping people and businesses moving so that they can work, shop, use local services, visit friends and family and deliver goods. A council’s role includes transport planning, maintaining highways and managing traffic, supporting public transport and promoting road safety.
- Welfare reform
We are supporting councils to understand and manage the impact and implementation of the Government's substantial programme of welfare reforms as we move towards the full roll out of Universal Credit.