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OPINION: 'What happened in Leicester shows Westminster does not always know best'

Arianna Giovannini, Director of De Montfort University Leicester's Local Government Research Unit, reflects on what lessons can be learned from the Leicester lockdown and what it means for the relationship between central and local government

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As the Government moves to give local authorities more powers to enact local lockdowns this week, the situation in Leicester over the past few weeks has revealed a structural problem in the relationship between central and local government in our country.

In the management of the pandemic, the Government seems to have automatically entered in ‘top-down command and control mode’, side-lining local leaders like Sir Peter Soulsby.

And yet what happened in Leicester clearly shows that Westminster does not necessarily always know best.

As we enter the second extension of regulations in Leicester was announced, the messaging from Westminster continues to be too vague.


No details were provided on what the government will do to protect jobs, support families and help local businesses.

In addition, no indication was given as to how the city will exit the lockdown. This is particularly important, as public understanding of how, when and in what way the current measures will be lifted is essential to maintain the compliance and support from local communities we have seen so hearteningly in Leicester.

The management and sharing of data, too, continues to be problematic, with local authorities lamenting sustained delays – which, in turn, hampers their ability to put in place preventive measures in high risk areas in a timely manner.

Going forward, to ensure Leicester, and indeed all communities across the country, bounce back from the pandemic and thrive we need to see a profound change.

Communication between central and local authorities must be more collaborative, involving all the levels from ministers to county and local councils.

And if the government is serious about its commitment to ‘build back better’, then it must also re-invest local authorities with the information, resources, power and trust they need and deserve.  


Posted on Tuesday 21st July 2020

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