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COVID-19 and councils: impacts, responses and recovery

You can download David's slides by clicking here. The IFS Local Government Dashboard mentioned in the event can be found here.

This event is part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science. Click here for information on other festival events.


The COVID-19 crisis has been a perfect financial storm for councils, pushing up spending and hitting local income streams. At the same time, councils have had to take on new responsibilities to support and protect their communities and businesses. And looking ahead, they will play a vital role in supporting social and economic recovery – but are likely to face ongoing funding pressures.

The event, part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, brings together researchers from the Institute for Fiscal Studies and leading experts from local government to explain how the COVID-19 crisis has been affecting local finances and economies, how councils have been responding, and key issues for the next few years as we seek to recover.

IFS Associate Director David Phillips will present the IFS’s latest research on how the COVID-19 crisis has affected councils’ spending and incomes so far, and the looming financial issues and choices over the next few years. He will discuss how the financial and economic effects of the COVID-19 crisis are varying across councils – and what this might mean for policy.

The presentation will be followed by a panel of experts from local government, who will discuss how councils have been affected and responded so far, and what their plans and needs are for the future as they seek to ‘build back better’. The panel will include:

  • Andrew Carter, Chief Executive of the Centre for Cities
  • Nicola Morton, head of finance for the Local Government Association (LGA)
  • Kamal Panchal, Senior Advisor at the LGA
  • Councillor Richard Watts, leader of Islington Council and chair of the LGA’s Resource’s Board

Following this there will be plenty of time for questions to David and the panel.

The event is aimed to be accessible to councillors, officers and members of the wider public without specialist knowledge of council funding and local economies – but who want to big short and medium-term issues. It will also give those working in the field an opportunity to ask specific and detailed questions to David and the panel, potentially feeding in to future IFS research on this important topic.

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