LGA Conference 2023 Recap: Local Government focuses on people, places and planet

Jul 10, 2023

Zatenviro - small child wearing a green jacket playing with bubbles in a green public park

In July we attended the Local Government Association (LGA) Conference and Exhibition 2023 in Bournemouth. 

Two of the week’s highlights were the speeches by the Secretary of State Michael Gove MP and the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan MP, the third being the active discussions around reaching Net Zero.

LGA Conference 2023 - logo

UK Digital Strategy

In his speech, the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, emphasised the need for Central Government to give local communities more tools to make a difference on the issues that matter to residents – from countering anti-social behaviour to revitalising high streets and enhancing the environment.

Targeted Data and Analysis for Local Government Decision-making

Mr Gove announced the launch of the new Office for Local Government (Oflog) which is part of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. Mr Gove announced:

“It is to improve accountability and transparency, and help all councils succeed, that I am today officially launching the Office for Local Government (Oflog).

By providing targeted data and analysis, Oflog will champion the very best in local government and also help us to identify where councils need targeted support to deliver.

And Oflog will of course work closely in partnership with the LGA’s Innovation and Improvement board…

And we want to make sure that Oflog ensures there is wider appreciation of the innovation and excellence displayed every day by local government.”

Mr Gove also announced pilot schemes that allow councils to spend funding more flexibly. He said:

“All local authorities that have Towns, Levelling Up and Future High Streets funding will also have more flexibility over their projects – I can confirm that they will be free to make output, outcome and funding changes up to a threshold of 30% without needing to seek any departmental approval.”

The Build back better high streets and Towns Fund is a £3.6 billion fund investing in towns as part of the Government’s plan to level up our regions. Ten pilot local authorities will be able to spend their existing funding pots – allocated through the Towns, Levelling Up and Future High Streets programmes – more flexibly.

The Build back better high streets strategy sets out the Government’s plan for high streets and how high streets and town centres can adapt and thrive after the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The strategy sets out Government action across 5 areas:

  1. Breathing new life into empty buildings
  2. Supporting high street businesses
  3. Improving the public realm
  4. Creating safe and clean spaces
  5. Celebrating pride in local communities

Technology for Creating Safe and Clean Spaces

Mr Gove went on to highlight an example of a Local Authority’s digital transformation success in using technology for environmental enforcement:

“Swindon Borough Council, for example, now takes an average of 4 days, instead of 11, to clear up fly-tipping after developing AI software to process reports submitted by residents and then work out the most efficient way for street teams to tackle them. It is also saving around £28,000 a year in fuel and staffing costs.”

Unity5’s Zatenviro environmental enforcement solution has been designed to support Local Authority challenges like fly-tipping. We designed it in conjunction with local authority users to provide compliance with the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005, the Environmental Protection Act 1990, the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Act 2014, and the Littering from Vehicles Outside London (Keepers: Civil Penalties) Regulations 2018. 

Fitting perfectly into the Local Authority digital transformation pathway, Zatenviro can help identify fly-tipping offenders and ensure the enforcement processes are completed effectively and fairly. 

It was great to see that Unity5 solutions continue to align with the latest Government initiatives of improving the public environments and creating safe and clean spaces for our local communities.

You can read Michael Gove’s full speech here.

Education: DfE Secretary Highlights the Need to Keep Children in School

Education Secretary the Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP gave a passionate address to the Local Government Association highlighting the challenges children and families face following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Children have been through so much in the pandemic; I can’t think of a worse time to be willingly keeping them out of school.

And we know that it’s critical to ensure children spend as much time in school as possible.

Because we know that time spent in school is time well spent. School provides stability, it provides education, it provides support, it provides community.

But there are significantly more children missing school than before the pandemic.

Sadly, tragically, too many children are not attending school regularly, are persistently absent or, are missing education altogether.”

Gillian went on to state that the DfE are determined to fix the school absence problem. She thanked the audience for the work they have already done with schools and families to ensure that they and their children get the right support.

She said that the DfE are clear that the education system needs to work together to improve attendance, focusing on a “support-first” approach, and they will put these new expectations on a statutory footing. 

Gillian chairs the Attendance Action Alliance which includes the Children’s Commissioner, the President of the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Children’s Mental Health lead from NHS England

She announced that the DfE has created a new data tool allowing education departments to respond quickly to absence trends in near real-time. Their attendance advisers are working with 115 local authorities to deliver lower absence rates. 

Here at Unity5, we wholeheartedly agree with Gillian Keagan’s mission. 

Education is crucial in allowing all children to reach their full potential, and absenteeism is one of the biggest barriers to this. As Gillian highlighted in her speech, school absence can often be a symptom of issues the family or a child is experiencing, and this is when the school will work with other agencies to resolve or improve the situation. It’s great to hear that the Government plans to increase support for children and families with additional needs.

Our work with NELC to provide an enforcement solution for school absences has given them huge efficiencies in handling penalties issued to parents. While issuing penalties is a last option for Education Welfare teams, we were pleased to hear further validation that Unity5 is providing digital transformation tools that support the Government’s school absence initiatives.

Gillian stated that championing good attendance is top of her organisation’s agenda, saying:

“I’m delighted to say that bit by bit, little by little, our approach is working.”

You can read Gillian Keegan’s full speech here.

Zatpark - implementing school streets schemes - learn more - image of traffic on a no stopping zone

Climate Change: Carbon Reduction Strategies to Reach Net Zero

Achieving the Government’s Net Zero targets was another hot topic at LGA 2023. Councils, Government organisations, Higher Education and the NHS, are all challenged with reducing their carbon footprint.

ZatPark environmental penalty management software - cloud on blue sky background

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero (DESNZ) is focused on the energy portfolio from the former Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Their responsibilities are

  • Delivering security of energy supply
  • Ensuring properly functioning energy markets
  • Encouraging greater energy efficiency
  • Seizing the opportunities of net zero to lead the world in new green industries.

The DESNZ’s priorities for 2023 include

  • Ensuring the UK is on track to meet its legally binding Net Zero commitments 
  • To improve the energy efficiency of UK homes, businesses and public sector buildings to meet the 15% demand reduction ambition.

At LGA 2023, there was much discussion around how to achieve these challenging but necessary reductions, and many organisations were offering innovative solutions. Optimal usage of buildings and assets is a potential solution, reducing the number of buildings using power by repurposing existing buildings. 

Similarly, discussions around the use of technological innovations highlighted other ways to support achieving carbon reduction goals. The Government’s UK Digital Strategy guidelines lay out best practices for procuring systems within Local Authorities. This includes taking a cloud-first approach when assessing technology suitability. Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are one element that can help reduce power usage by removing on-premises systems and servers with high power requirements.

ZatPark - parking control management permit - light bars coming down on a black background - learn more

All of Unity5’s solutions are built on globally available cloud infrastructure. This removes the cost of operating on-site servers for Local Authorities and public sector organisations. This was another verification for us, highlighting that we, as a Government technology provider, continue to support the UK Digital Strategy and our solutions can help achieve the Net Zero targets.


Not only did the conference allow us to gain valuable insight into current pain points and future initiatives affecting local Government, it also gave us the opportunity to directly discuss these topics with Council leaders and Councillors. We received valuable feedback from the discussions we held, including how technology being implemented, such as School Streets and moving traffic enforcement, can benefit their constituents, the importance of positive communication around these new initiatives and how our parking enforcement software can support them in making their communities safer and greener.

Unity5 event team

As always, the LGA Conference provided fascinating insights and opportunities to meet with a broad range of public sector organisations. It was great to catch up with our public sector friends and clients and meet new faces. We’re already looking forward to next year’s event!

Learn more about Zatpark Local Government Solutions

Get in touch for a no-obligation chat and learn how Zatpark solutions can help you.

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