For the first time in three years, the Local Government Association (LGA) Annual Conference took place in June in Harrogate.

The conference, which is the largest event in the local government calendar, offered a really good opportunity to gather new ideas and meet up again with colleagues after three years. Councils have had to deal with significant events since the last conference in 2020; the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis – so we all had a lot to discuss.

As well as talking to those in local government, it’s a great chance to hear from and talk to ministers operating in the highest reaches of government. We had the likes of Michael Gove, Nadhim Zahawi and Rishi Sunak attend our group meetings over the three days, which meant we could put frank questions to them. Nadhim also attended our group dinner and spoke individually to everyone there.

Lisa Nandy, the Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities also attended the conference and promised widespread loads of money to everyone if Labour is elected to power.

At the conference I attended two very interesting Innovation Zone sessions; this was an interactive space where individuals and organisations present their inspiring ideas. The theme for this year’s Innovation Zone was ‘Resilience and Renewal’.

The first session, by Exeter City Council, was on how they are trying to integrate their services with other public sector services, such as health and education, to achieve better results. It was interesting to hear from another Council in Devon on their efforts at the conference.

The other session was on using drones to help out with building inspections, planning, coastal erosion and evolution, building heat maps, agricultural crop monitoring, searching for police evidence, and mountain rescue operations, among other things. The imagination, technology and skills on show were impressive.

Finally, I attended a really interesting fringe session on tackling poverty and the best approach get to grips with people’s real and deep-rooted problems. The message was very much that no two households have the same problems, so no one size fits all.

Sessions like this and knowledge gained in projects elsewhere in the country should be very useful as a road map as we start tackling the rural poverty work stream in our Better Lives for All strategy.

Outside of the conference itself, I had the chance to explore the lovely town of Harrogate; it’s home to the iconic Betty’s Tea Rooms, which was the first of the Betty’s brand to open. The town itself has splendid spa-era architecture, while it was encouraging to see how their infrastructure is becoming more sustainable with electric double decker buses running on their urban routes.

Next year’s conference is taking place in Bournemouth, so it will be a lot closer to home! But all in all, it was well worth travelling all that way.