Signals of the future – horizon scanning for local government 

Local Government Association / Ipsos  


Ipsos Trends & Foresight was commissioned by the Local Government Association to conduct a horizon scan and driver analysis of key issues in UK society, to provide insights into what the leading drivers of change are in the country today and how these might play out for local authorities over the coming five years. 

The aim was to provide some thought starters about the issues local government leaders might find in their inboxes by the year 2027. 

To investigate this question Ipsos used a “PESTLE plus” analysis framework which informed an evidence review spanning demographic and statistical data, published survey and qualitative research and opinion and journalistic sources. 

This report summarises the key drivers discovered in the analysis. It outlines thirteen drivers, nested within four themes. Each theme leads with some “provocations”, which provide examples of what these drivers might mean for local council leaders on the ground by 2027. The drivers behind these provocations are then introduced and explored in detail report, highlighting their core narrative and supporting data. 

1/ Boosting productivity, pay, jobs and living standards 

  • How can councils attract, train and retain skilled staff to take advantage of new technology in a hypercompetitive labour market? 
  • How do councils prepare for next generation of more diverse young people and support future business leaders? 
  • How can councils bridge the narrowing yet deepening digital and physical divide? 

2/ Spreading opportunity and improving public services 

  • What balance do councils strike in balancing digital innovation with avoiding leaving behind less connected citizens? 
  • How can councils tackle the challenge of further ageing, especially for urban areas used to younger populations? 
  • As providers of recreation and leisure facilities, what might change about councils’ roles in providing broader mental health support? 
  • What steps should councils take to encourage mobility in a population that is travelling less than it used to? 

3/ Restoring a sense of community & local pride 

  • What types of support do local entrepreneurs and businesses need to thrive in a high street where footfall might never return to pre-Covid levels? 
  • How can councils leverage digital tools and use data analytics to provide support to physical locations and businesses? 
  • What innovations might councils use to harness the power of local communities to support a growing older population in need of social care? 

4/ Empowering local leaders 

  • What role could local councils play in the green energy transition as the footprint of renewable power generation and storage expands? 
  • How will Councils navigate emerging tensions between the central government’s priorities for levelling up and what the public want? 
  • What new restrictions might councils face, around issues such as nutrient neutrality, biodiversity net gain and drones legislation? 

The aim of the provocations and drivers in this report is to give local leaders the space to consider potential solutions for tomorrow’s challenges, today. Councils and the LGA already have work and reports on the key pressures and delivery issues facing local authorities today, such as funding, social care, schooling and the cost of living. By offering some signals of how the future might look in five years’ time, this report will allow leaders to consider the steps they can take to mitigate threats from possible futures – and to take positive action to capitalise on opportunities and create policies that help them move towards a future that is preferable.