NHS Long Term Plan; and more...

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Local Government Independant Group


11 January 2018

NHS Long Term Plan

Dear all,

This week's Independent Group's Be a Councillor Event in Southend on Sea was well attended and very successful. There was also great success yesterday for Members in Bexhill and Rother where Independents held two seats with very convincing majorities and despite the Conservative party machinery. Good luck to you all in your election preparations and team- building. Let us know if we can help.

Local government finance
It was good to see many of you at the finance conference this week, with presentations from the LGA, the Treasury and the Local Government Minister, James Brokenshire. I also met on Wednesday with our Under Secretary of State, Richi Sinak, to put our case. 

Richi is personable, bright and listening. Any areas where we need more powers or changes to the rules to help us do our job better will be welcomed. I suggested the fund for preparation for Brexit be made available now, not after the event. Also welcome are any areas where we are part of the solution such as prevention and public health.

Providing data to back up the case is essential, For example, 88 per cent of councils are having to strip other services, such as libraries and children's centres to support essential children's services. More on this below.

The NHS long term plan 
This week the NHS finally published its long term plan. We called for a stronger focus on prevention, early support and reducing health inequalities. We called for investment in primary, community and mental health services. We called for a focus on giving children the best start and on caring for older people in their own homes. All this is in the new plan, designed to complement social care and wider services provided through councils and others. But the confusion around who commissions public health is unhelpful and it falls short without the long term plan for adult social care.

As you know, we in local government did our own consultation Green Paper, laying the ground for the Government to go ahead with theirs, knowing what people think on the issues. We continue to point to this and the arguments made by our members for a new solution for sustainable funding.

LGA subscription fees
You will be glad to hear we have agreed to freeze the subscription fees have been frozen again - for the seventh consecutive year. You can get 2.5 per cent off by not being on notice and another 2.5 per cent by paying in full by 30 June 2020. Your councils will be receiving letters this week confirming 2019/20 subscription rates. As you know, we continue to work hard to always deliver value for money for our councils and communities.

Children’s Services
A number of our members said their councils were having to overspend on essential children's services, stripping other services such as libraries and even children's centres. At the LGA, we responded by gathering the data to make the case. New analysis by the LGA revealed this week that 133 out of 152 councils were forced to overspend on children’s services las year totalling £806m. 88 per cent of councils overspending points to a significant funding issue the government has to address. This makes a powerful case and we hope the ministers will respond favourably.

High Street fund
Our Independent Group members raised the issue of high streets struggling to compete with international online sales. The Government has responded with £675 million available in a Future High Streets Fund and a call for proposals by 22 March 2019. We at the LGA were fundamental in securing this funding and are working with government to ensure maximum flexibility over how it is spent.

Letwin review
Our Local Plans have allocated a great deal of land for house-building and councils are pressurised if the developers don't build. The LGA has included your comments in a briefing in response to the Oliver Letwin’s review into house building and land availability. Our members have long called for action to resolve the delays in the delivery of sites that have been granted planning permission and for councils to have greater powers to step in. Do let us know your views.

Fair funding events
I included the dates in my bulletin last week but as a reminder, the LGA and the Ministry are running a series of regional events for councils to hear about the latest Business Rates Retention and Fair Funding Review consultations. These half-day events (1.30pm to 4.30pm) are free to attend and are a great opportunity for colleagues to feed their views directly to Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government officials. Please book a place on one of the following events: London (16 January), Taunton (18 January), Bury St Edmunds (21 January), Leeds (8 February), and Birmingham (11 February).

Information and Development Seminar
Our next Information and Development Seminar is on 18 January and will be a workshop on scrutiny. We run a very similar session as part of our Next Generation Programme and it always receives superb feedback. This is a useful and practical session on the benefits of scrutiny and how councillors, both in the administration and opposition, can best use and what Members can do to promote what they’ve changed. This meeting will be followed by a meeting of the Independent Network for Independent Members.

Regional meetings
Our next round of regional meetings begin in February. These are a really useful way to meet with other Independent Group colleagues and discuss the issues that matter most to your region. We'll also be focusing on being a councillor for prospective candidates, election readiness and succession planning ahead of the May 2019 and 2020 elections. 

First magazine
The LGA’s first magazine is now online, as well as the hard copy you received this week. 

LGA Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Councillors Weekender Event: 9-10 February
This popular event provides a unique learning and networking opportunity for elected members from BAME backgrounds and those who are interested in exploring ideas for enhancing recruitment and retention of BAME councillors. We have several fully funded places for members so please contact the office for more details if you are interested in attending.

Marianne Overton

Kind regards,

Councillor Marianne Overton MBE
Leader of the Independent Group
Vice Chair of the Local Government Association