Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 6 September 2019

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

6 September 2019


Dear friends and colleagues,

I hope you are well and had a good summer!

More Government cash

Our Board Leads and I have continued working cross-party nationally with Government ministers, making clear what is needed for local government, both to meet rising demand and to cover a no-deal Brexit.

The new Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid, has agreed. This week he announced £3.5 billion more for our vital council services, but only in this one-year settlement, with elections on the cards.

In the biggest increase in a decade, new money is promised for the police, NHS, Brexit, adult social care (£1 billion) and special educational needs (£0.7 billion).

So, austerity is suddenly over and the deficit no longer an issue…

I argued at the outset that cutting too much damages our services, causing knock-on costs and cuts the economy so it cannot provide the taxes we need for services. It has to be about careful balance. To put it in context, £3.5 billion is about 4 per cent of the total revenue, and is more than the £2.6 billion sticking plaster we calculated was the minimum needed to cover next year.

Thus councils are expected to continue increasing local tax for adult social care, and there is nothing yet to solve the long term funding, as we requested. From 2021, the minister has promised fairer funding and that we will retain 75 per cent of business rates, presumably minus any of his reductions in business rates.

The full response from the LGA is worth having to hand for your council discussions. Let us know what you think.

"Boris bets the House," said headlines this week

I met with ministers again this week, to discuss mitigating the effects of a “no deal” Brexit. That was on the very day of the Prime Minister's moment of reckoning, where 21 MPs insisted on voting independently, with their conscience, but not with Mr Johnson. So no luck with reuniting the party with charisma alone. I was amazed at the fleet of cars carrying party whips to get their instructions from Mr Johnson, all to no avail! Thus we have a new host of Independent MPs and a minority Conservative government.

The Prime Minister was also voted down on his call for an election, but there is another vote. One party leader said she was horrified, “not used to losing votes, because in councils if it won’t go through, you don’t propose it.”

On the same day, Nigel Farage was at the Lincoln Showground, speaking at a regional Brexit Party Rally, accompanied by some of their 29 MEPs.

If a snap election is called and you are thinking of standing or supporting a good candidate, now is the time to get ready and be campaigning! Let the office know, so they can point you in the right direction.

Climate change

I attended an amazing conference last weekend on climate change. I met 11 Polynesians whose islands will be uninhabitable is 20 to 30 years. We saw pictures of one island once occupied by 1,000 people, now just a seam of sand appearing at low tide.

Professor Elisabeth Holland is a Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work on climate change. She explained that new evidence shows that climate change is speeding up exponentially, with a significant increase in catastrophic storms, making many areas uninhabitable. That’s why the UN agreed with the recommendation to be tougher on climate change, keeping any increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius – a hard target. A glaciologist who worked in Greenland pointed out that would damage the earth’s balancing mechanisms and create an 8 metre increase in sea level.

Displacement of many millions of people will be impossible for us to manage.

We have passed the motion calling for action on climate change at the LGA and in half the councils across the country. Public demonstrations and “sustainable workshops” abound. We have set up an LGA steering group and there is a special interest group your council can join. The first set of plans for action are going to the LGA Executive next week. Sarah Woodhouse in the Group Office is collating useful references of what councils can do. Your contributions would be most helpful.

LGA Independent Group

We start back in full next week. We have met with group leaders, ministers and an MEP so far, strengthening our position and making our case.

The think tanks are being refreshed, so please join one, so we can represent you on key issues, just let the office know which.

With your encouragement and support, we did a huge amount both through the office and with 40 meetings round the country prior to the elections last year, to encourage good candidates. We got great results increasing our numbers by over 700 compared to the same elections in 2015. We now have 2,772 members, 320 more than the Liberal Democrats. We remain largely Independent at 77.6 per cent , with 17 per cent Greens, 3.8 per cent Plaid Cymru and 3.1 per cent UKIP. Our members lead 31 councils and are in administration of 69 councils. I am delighted to be able to say that we have a very strong leadership and peer team for you.

Our programme for the year ahead is already filling up with key dates for your diary below.

I look forward to keeping in touch with you.

Kind regards,

Councillor Marianne Overton MBE signature
Councillor Marianne Overton MBE

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

Dates for the diary

LGA Independent Group Annual Conference
8 November 2019, London
Join us for a day of insight, debate, workshops and networking. Professor Tony Travers and Nick Golding, Editor of the LGC, are already confirmed as speakers. Reserve your free place via our Conference website.

Book your place

Information and Development Seminars
Join us in London or via video conference to take part in our workshops, followed by Green Party and Independent Network meetings:

  • 20 September – Creating a Vision for your Council and/or Group
  • 18 October – Managing Conflict
  • 6 December – Budget Setting

Regional meetings
Our Autumn Regional Meetings begin soon, open to current members and prospective councillors within our membership. Led by our Regional Chairs and Regional Peers, these events are regionally focused and include discussion on the key issues affecting our members.

Dates already confirmed are:

  • 19 September – Castle Donnington
  • 11 October – Uttlesford
  • 24 October – Stockton
  • 28 October – Taunton
  • 21 November – Manchester

To find out more or to RSVP to any of our events please email