Independent Group Leader's Bulletin 11 October 2019

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

11 October 2019


Dear friends and colleagues,

Party conferences

Thanks to all for a warm welcome at the Plaid Cymru and Green conferences last weekend. Both were very well attended, filling the conference centres of Swansea and Newport respectively with excellent, inspiring speeches. 

Leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, spoke about the failure of the Conservative government to support Wales with the major infrastructure investment needed for its economy and the Brexit debacle, leading to a call for self-determination, effectively a devolution of power and money. That chimes with the LGA calls to central government, on the basis that local councils are closest and most representative of the people. 

Co-leader, Jonathan Bartlett, gave the keynote speech at the Green Party Conference, calling for action on climate breakdown. Co-leader, Sian Berry, is standing for Mayor of London, and spoke powerfully about a better government for London. Caroline Lucas MP interviewed explorer and TV presenter, Steve Backshaw, who spoke of his personal shock at the rate of destruction of the natural world that he himself had witnessed over 30 years. 

I attended a meeting at the House of Commons on Wednesday evening, prorogued correctly this time, and completely deserted, save for our event in support of biology and biological research. As I entered the Houses of Parliament I gave some words of support for peaceful demonstration to members of extinction rebellion quietly setting up camp at the junction of Parliament Square and Whitehall. By the time I came out, the place was still shut off and completely deserted, ready for the Queen’s Speech next week, the police said.

Public action highlights a cause and demonstrates support, but we need councillors to carry out the actions needed. Clearly reducing energy use and treading more lightly on the planet has got to be beneficial. Around our country, councils are setting targets that reflect what is scientifically needed, not just politically expedient. 

Today at our East regional meeting in Saffron Walden, hosted by Uttlesford Council Leader Cllr John Lodge (Ind), we will be looking at the practicalities of how to shape our local plans with their significant housing targets and what actions might be most effective in our home areas. We are keen to make sure that your contributions are properly reflected in the work of our think tanks and the LGA so do sign up and get involved.

Stop press

As bank interests drop to less than 1 per cent, the Government has just suddenly raised the interest rate on the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) by 1 percentage point. Councils are very close to breaking the £85 billion cap on how much can be borrowed, leading to Treasury concerns. However while raising the rate, the Treasury also raised the cap by £10 billion.

The LGA has flagged that a 1 per cent rise could cost councils an extra £70 million a year. 

This has been the simplest way of borrowing and used to be the cheapest. The LGA has set up its own Municipal Bond Agency where councils lend to councils at a rate set lower than the PWLB. Perhaps this is just the prompt needed to boost its success.

Thanks for all your good work in our councils and communities. I look forward to seeing you soon and especially at our Annual Conference on 8 November. Always a brilliant event, well worth attending.

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

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:

  • 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 as follows:

  • 24 October – Stockton
  • 28 October – Taunton
  • 21 November – Manchester

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