Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 10 January 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

10 January 2020


Dear friends and colleagues,

Season’s Greetings!

Wishing you all good health, happiness and success as we start the new decade. It is the decade to change our impact on the environment - and we are up for it, taking a leadership position and pressing Government to drive forward significant change. We have redrafted our business plan and collated examples of good practice from a hundred councils. A Government revamp of the planning system is on the way and our councillors working through the LGA, need to be at the heart of it.

We have begun in earnest with the new Government on a cross-party agreement to ensure long term funding for adult social care, rather than the current uncertain annual contributions, topped up with local taxes, unsustainable in the long term. We are looking at how we can get more money into the system and create a better service.

We are also working on fairer funding between councils and retention of any increase in business rates, above the 50 per cent we get to date.

The agenda

The Queen’s speech set out a host of bills, almost all of which impinge on our ability to do our job for residents. You will see in the budgets now working through your councils that we had a significant settlement agreed at the end of the year, which has been honoured by the new government. We asked for £2.6 billion and were offered £3.5 billion including the money councils expect to raise from local taxes.

Government has calculated that we will be increasing council tax by just under 2 per cent, plus 2 per cent for adult social care. Hence, if councils do not raise that tax, we will be short and services depleted. The Government has continued the line of not raising income tax, national insurance and VAT, yet is still expecting us to do more for more people, with higher needs, and cover the statutory increases in the living wage. We are putting forward alternatives.

The Government seems to be intent on getting 300,000 more dwellings built and changing the planning policies to assist this. We previously explained that the problem is not the council’s permission system, but the inability of people to pay the costs, that made them unaffordable.

It is worth reading the LGA’s responses to the Queen's speech and Local Government Finance Settlement if you’d like to know more.

Planning guidance

Before the Christmas holidays the LGA refreshed its 2013 Probity in Planning guidance, developed with the Planning Advisory Service (PAS).

The guidance provides advice for councillors and officers making planning decisions.  This refreshed version includes updates to ensure that it reflects changes in national policy and legislation over the last few years.

Whilst there are often big variations in our council areas, we are aiming to get a rolling set of sample motions that some of our members have found effective. Let’s see if we can share best practice and please email Sarah Woodhouse with some of your best!

Be a Councillor

With elections coming up in May, including some new unitary areas, please let us if you’d like a member of our Executive to attend a Be a Councillor session for prospective councillors. We are able to help with some funding and support events for those standing in May 2020.

Wishing you all the very best for 2020. Our conferences and free group development sessions listed below are well received, so please come along if you can!

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:

17 January | Challenging and Setting Budgets and what the local government finance settlement means for members

14 February | Climate Emergency: What next? – a specific session for group members following the oversubscribed LGA conference

13 March | Legislation: local government elections - Simon Bell from Knights Solicitors will be running a factual session for members.

All are accessible via video conference and resources will be available afterwards, but the most benefit is garnered in person. I hope to see many of you there. To find out more or book your place please contact the office.

Digital and Data Masterclasses for Councillors

The LGA is hosting a series of events targeted at members who are responsible for digital/data projects in their authority. They focus on a member’s role in enabling successful digital and data projects within their authority – often from the perspective of councillors who have been there:  

The events are free and take place as follows: Manchester (24-Jan), Bristol (31-Jan), Newcastle (7-Feb), London (14-Feb).  Full details and the booking pages.