Local government can play a crucial role in the green recovery
Councils should be given greater powers and flexibility to support new green skills and jobs across the country
As the nation moves to the next phase of its battle against Covid-19, there is an opportunity to build the new economy that levels up all areas of the country. To do this, national and local government must work together with private enterprise in developing recovery options that turbo-charge growth, whilst helping meet the UK Government’s target of net zero by 2050.
Councils have already demonstrated their value, supporting businesses with advice and grants and helping the unemployed through local job centres. As our attention turns to the future, it is vital that local government plays a central role in the recovery. In my capacity as a vice-president and former chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), and as a member of the Devolution APPG, I believe councils should be given greater powers and flexibilities over employment and skills provision to support residents into employment. These efforts must not happen in a silo, instead they should be linked to investment and job creation in the green and low carbon sectors.
The low carbon economy is forecast to grow faster than traditional industries, while demand for green jobs will rapidly increase as we transition to a net zero economy. A report from the LGA, “Local green jobs – accelerating a sustainable economic recovery” highlights this, estimating nearly 700,000 direct jobs could be created in England’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy by 2030, rising to 1.18 million by 2050. All of England’s regions would benefit from these vital jobs. More than 420,000 of them would be in the North; nearly 200,000 in the Midlands; almost 120,000 in the East; and nearly 450,000 in London and the South.
A climate smart recovery will support councils in their environmental and sustainability ambitions. Indeed, nearly two-thirds of councils aim to be carbon neutral by 2030, for instance, and this is influencing local economic growth plans, as well as skills programmes.
Empowering councils will ensure young people and older workers across diverse communities are not left behind, but rather trained and retrained
At its recent Annual Conference, held virtually for the first time, the LGA launched Re-thinking Local, in which it set out its vision for the future shape of English local government. In it, the LGA called on Government to support its Work Local programme by funding local pathfinders in each region. Councils, combined authorities and their partners could then integrate and devolve employment, apprenticeships and skills initiatives, making it easier for residents and employers alike to navigate.
By doing this, local areas will be able to better address their own skills supply and demand, working with education providers and businesses to bridge gaps in NVQ-related skills so the workforce is equipped to meet emerging demand. Potential skills gaps requiring intervention could then be identified early and addressed in ways centrally driven employment and skills support often cannot.
Empowering councils like this will also ensure young people and older workers across diverse communities are not left behind, but rather trained and retrained so they can benefit from new opportunities. This refreshed approach to skills training will upskill people in our community, support the roll out of clean technologies and build the economy of the future.
That is why I have been arguing in the House of Lords that councils can be the catalyst to drive forward this new green jobs windfall and drive a sustainable, truly national economic recovery. LGA polling shows residents trust their councils to deliver for them and it vital we give local government the powers to shape our places and future local economies.
Baroness Eaton is a Conservative peer and vice-president of the Local Government Association