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Advice & support for local government

Advice and support for local government

"Local authorities and their partners. are pivotal to delivering sustainable communities."
Securing the Future, the UK's sustainable development strategy

This section has been developed to help local government officials and practitioners involved in creating sustainable communities. As well as advice and support it also answers the question what is a sustainable community? and explains why local authorities have a critical role to play. Follow the links below to find out more about the key ways that local authorities are helping to create sustainable communities:

See also

What is a sustainable community?

Central and local government share the ambition of creating genuinely sustainable communities. Sustainable communities are places where people want to live and work, now and in the future. They embody the principles of sustainable development at the local level. This means they:

  • Balance and integrate the social, economic and environmental components of their community
  • Meet the needs of existing and future generations
  • Respect the needs of other communities in the wider region and internationally to make their communities sustainable.

Delivering genuinely sustainable communities requires a different approach from local government. In broad terms, it requires local authorities to recognise the connections and impacts between different local and national priorities to make sure that they do not undermine each other. It also requires a distinctive approach to the way that services are planned and delivered, which goes beyond professional or service 'silos' to address the area's social, economic and environmental goals together.

Read more about what makes a community genuinely sustainable.

Why local government needs to be involved

Creating more sustainable communities will not only benefit today's residents, through a better quality of life, it will crucially help to secure the future for later generations. They will then be better prepared to face a future of reduced resources and tougher environmental limits.

The scale and seriousness of the challenge we face means that creating sustainable communities is a national Government priority. It is one of the four pillars of the sustainable development strategy, Securing the Future, announced by the Prime Minister in March 2005.

The integration of social, economic and environmental objectives means that sustainable communities maximise the benefits to be gained from local initiatives and any unnecessary conflicts between them can be avoided. An integrated approach helps to cut out any 'down-stream' problems by addressing the root causes, be they social, economic or environmental. It also offers the ideal opportunity to strengthen ties between social, economic and environmental interests in an area.

How are local authorities creating sustainable communities?

Sustainable communities cannot be delivered by local government alone. Many organisations and agencies need to play their part, including central government and individuals within the communities themselves.

Yet local authorities have a critical role to play in creating sustainable communities, through effective local leadership and by making it possible for local people to get involved. In all this, councils also need to lead by example, ensuring that sustainability becomes embedded into local services and council operations.

Providing local leadership on sustainable development

Effective community leadership means shaping a long-term strategic vision for an area, involving and learning from local communities, bringing together and making partnerships work, and at times taking difficult decisions. Mechanisms are in place to help local authorities in all this and to become local leaders for change.

See also: recent documents.

Involving communities in sustainable development

Action by citizens and communities is central to sustainable development. Local authorities have an important part to play in enabling communities to become more involved by encouraging informed debate and including citizens in local decision-making. Local government has also demonstrated that it can invigorate community action and support individual behaviour change by working with community groups delivering sustainable development.

Local government leading by example

As key players in the local economy, local authorities can make a significant contribution to the creation of sustainable communities through local services and council operations. At the same time, councils that lead by example can have an important influence on the habits of residents. In order to create the necessary step-change, local government is developing new ways of working, employing a broad range of new and different skills

What is central Government doing to help?

Central Government is working with local authorities, partner agencies and local people to help create genuinely sustainable communities. Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), and Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), provide the policy framework and funding for the development of sustainable communities.

Government is helping to strengthen local leadership on sustainable development with guidance and training for local strategic partnerships. It is also embedding sustainable development into community planning through local area agreements and sustainable community strategies.

Through the Academy for Sustainable Communities and others, work is being done to increase the skills and knowledge of local authority practitioners, especially at the senior level.

A new initiative called 'Every Action Counts' was launched by Government on the 28 June 2006. This initiative aims to help local community and voluntary groups take simple actions on the environment which add up to make a big difference nationwide. Local councils have a key role to play in engaging and encouraging community action on this agenda. 'Every action counts' offers a vehicle which can help you to do this.

Recent documents

  • Defra and the LGA have recently published a new guide for local councils. Sustainable Communities: a shared agenda, a share of the action will help local councils to make a big contribution to improving quality of life for all while tackling climate change and working towards environmental sustainability.
  • Central Government and specifically policy-formers need to communicate clear sustainable development messages to local government. Inspiring a Sustainable Local Future is a new paper by Defra and the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) documenting a cross-Government masterclass & workshop (Dec 2005) on the subject, highlighting some of the barriers and solutions to effective communication. Download it here

Updated: 5 February 2009