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8th March 2019

Martin Swales, new President of Solace, sets out his vision in annual dinner speech

Local government needs a “long term cross-departmental financial settlement” in the upcoming spending review in order to “give our communities the fairness and stability they deserve”, according to the new President of Solace, Martin Swales.

Mr. Swales urged the sector to unite and “build on our existing relationships” across local and central government as the country faces a “defining period” in its history, citing Brexit, the Spending Review and Fair Funding Review as key issues.

He said: “We must seize the opportunity to stand together and work together through this uncertainty – Solace, the LGA, the various professional bodies, Counties, Districts, Unitaries, London Boroughs, Mets, and Cities – in making a case for a single united vision for the future of our sector.

“We face many acute service demand pressures that play out in national headlines every day. We need a long term cross-departmental financial settlement through Her Majesty’s Treasury that allows us to give our communities the fairness and stability they deserve. It’s about increasing the size of the cake – only then can we determine how it’s sliced. And we must all channel our energies into making this case.”

Mr. Swales said local government and central Government “need to work as one to overcome the scale of the challenge that lies before us”.

He said: “My focus as Solace President will be to create the right platform, conditions, and relationships for the sector to emerge stronger and more prosperous for the future.”

Mr. Swales said he had been “encouraged by the positive indications from James Brokenshire”, Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss “around their determination to achieve a fair and sustainable settlement for local government”.

To that end, Mr. Swales spoke of the “positive discussions” he has had with Melanie Dawes, Permanent Secretary about “how Solace can contribute to policy shaping on key future funding issues”.

Mr. Swales said: “We now need to build on this through open dialogue and a greater understanding between practitioners and policymakers that informs a strong fiscal program to see us through the next decade.” Mr. Swales, who spoke of his “great pride” of entering his tenth year as Chief Executive of South Tyneside MBC, working with the Leader of the Council and Elected Member, said “the last decade has been an extremely challenging time to be a leader in our sector” and added: “It’s been a period of exceptional and rapid change…but together we have risen to the challenges and find solutions in the toughest of circumstances.”

Mr. Swales said it was a “privilege” to have been elected President of Solace and thanked former President Jo Miller for the work she did in the role.