Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 13 September 2019

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

13 September 2019


Dear friends and colleagues,

Today’s headline in the press: “What a fine mess you got us into!”

In a fast-racing political world, MPs found they could easily get a seat on the empty benches in Parliament as Boris’s prorogation begins, however it has now been found to be unlawful by judges in Scotland. The highest court in the land will be looking at it next Tuesday.

More about money and power for councils

As you know, I have been calling for support to mitigate councils’ concerns of a no-deal Brexit at a joint cross-party board with Government ministers. Many of those issues are now listed in the ‘Yellowhammer’ document, suddenly released this week. We sought, and have got, some helpful arrangements, some revenue for councils’ preparations and some capital for roads near ports. We continue to call for devolution to councils of funds into a prosperity fund, not held up in Whitehall or Cardiff.

Meanwhile local government is running our country, providing services for local people at this critical time. A lot of footwork by staff and group leaders was needed to get one of the best settlements since “austerity” began: £3.5 billion for local councils. However, it is only a step in the right direction, with 46 per cent of the money to be raised by ourselves through precepts. I am working to get the £5 tax increase for smaller councils, available again this year. We’re also campaigning for a long-term funding mechanism for adult social care.

Councils that got to keep 100 per cent of their business rates in the first pilot continue. However, the second tranche will cease, going back to retaining 50 per cent of the money. Central government grants are designed to be spent according to need. Instead council tax, being locally driven, means money is not necessarily raised where it is most needed. Different authorities have different abilities to raise funds through council tax and we risk a postcode lottery if more of our funding is to come this way. The maximum raise that councils can implement next year is limited to 2 per cent for council tax and 2 per cent for adult social care, and the Government will be expecting us to do that.

Adopted: UN Sustainable Development Goals

You may have been at the LGA’s AGM in July when the motion initiated by Green councillors calling for the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including a declaration of a climate change emergency, was passed. More than 200 councils have adopted a similar motion calling for action on climate change. The Welsh and Scottish governments have already adopted the goals.

Cllr Gillian Ford and I attended a meeting with the UN-Habitat Executive Director, talking about work we can share with the 193 countries in the UN. The LGA has mapped our business plan against the 17 SDGs, so we can begin to measure our progress. You might want to look at revising your own council’s business plan and your local plan on the new framework. (Bristol’s One City Plan is a useful example.)

Sustainable Development Goals: How Europe's towns and regions are taking the lead from The Council of European Municipalities and Regions, gives some useful ideas, and the LGA passed our cross-party plan of action this week, to be published shortly. Thanks to Cllr Andrew Cooper and all who gave their ideas and contributions.

SDG5: achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

I spoke at The Parliament Project in the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh last week, attended by several hundred women and some men. We hope to organise a “return match” in London next. With a colourful choir, artwork, theatre, workshops and some inspiring speakers, this will be quite an event.

SDG 5 is about equality of opportunity. The LGA and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government have produced an equalities toolkit which aims to empower and support women, parents and carers to take office and take on leadership roles within their councils.

Have your say

The Annual Survey of overview and scrutiny in local government, led by the Centre for Public Scrutiny, is now out and I encourage you to have your say.

The LGA is also conducting its membership survey and will be in touch with some of you over the coming weeks.

Also, our new team of inspiring lead members are now all in place at the LGA, working for you. Please join on of our policy think tanks so our board representatives can do the best job possible.

Wishing you all the very best in all that you do.

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