Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 6 March 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

6 March 2020


Dear colleagues,


Many of us are setting budgets this week, the culmination of months of work whether you are in administration, no overall control or in opposition. There is a reason why the business plan, the budget and Audit are all necessary full council decisions – they set out all that we do. Councils cover some 700 services touching the lives of everyone every day. Central government funding has reduced significantly, by some 60 per cent over the past 10 years. We have certainty now but for only one year, so many councils are considering their reserves and alternative sources of income. The uncertainty is particularly surrounding how much business rates we can retain and the new “fairer funding” distribution between councils across the country. We are also working at the LGA to secure separate funding for adult and children’s care. These should be clarified in the spending review 2021-2024.

The business plan sets out our priorities and we look in the budget to see if the funding matches. Consultation with residents, Scrutiny and Audit reveal where more or less funding is needed in this new budget.

You will probably recall that the LGA leadership team has done a considerable amount of work to make the case for proper funding to enable us to provide the services our residents need in the face of a funding gap which is increasing by £2.6 billion per year. Last year we fought for a funding package of more than £3.5 billion for vital council services. This is the biggest year on year real terms increase in spending power for local government in a decade which will allow councils to meet the increase in cost and demand pressures they face in 2020/21. However, some funding comes from council tax rises close to the maximum amount; £5 for smaller councils or 2 per cent, plus 2 per cent for care. The rural services grants are retained, worth around £400,000 in my district council, and the New Homes Bonus which is diminishing, set at four years of council tax per dwelling this year, and two next year.

In opposition, councillors are using the budget speeches as an opportunity to highlight our consistent messages for the things our residents need and care about. The 19 green councillors in Brighton have set out a very detailed plan ahead of their budget meeting and managed to get significant sums agreed for their priorities. In Ashfield, Independents in control have made considerable efficiency savings, set an ambitious capital programme and set about supporting businesses, good housing and a clean environment.

On North Kesteven District Council which is in no overall control, our group started work on our priorities last May, working through scrutiny, workshops and with officers. In the event, we were pleased to support the budget, which was passed unanimously for the first time in years!  In response to our work making the case, the budget included £100,000 for environmental improvements and tackling climate change, £100,000 for health and wellbeing to support our vulnerable residents, including mental health, and a capital regeneration programme of £220 million over 10 years. Much of this is following the idea of ‘invest to save’, such as developing a business park, a cinema and better shopfronts to improve our business rates, at the same time as improving the vitality of our area.

You might like to try our factsheet on budget setting and effective challenge for councillors.

Be a Councillor

We are always looking for good new supporters of our communities who may be tempted in to standing as councillors. We are able to offer support on running “Be a Councillor” events, so please check out our web page and get in touch if you would like one in your area.  The Enable fund is available to support candidates with disabilities to stand both in the PCC elections and in the May local elections. The fund comes from the Government Equalities Office and is administered in partnership with Disability Rights UK. Last May, 50 per cent of those who applied for the fund went on to be successfully elected.

Legal Power on your side

Knights solicitors are coming to speak to you at the LGA offices in 18 Smith Square, SW1P 3HZ next Friday 13 March 2020 from 11am to 1.30pm. They are running a factual session on elections and electoral law – essential for all! Last May, they helped one of our members through a court case and got a recount ordered. This is a worthwhile opportunity, so please do let the Independent Group office know if you would like to come along or join online.

When you receive this email, many of us will be well into our regional meeting in Lincoln, the start of the Spring series. The programme for this meeting and information about other upcoming meetings appears on the LGA Independent Group website.

Wishing you a very happy and productive councillor day!!

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 county lines conference
Nottingham, 24 March 2020

An all-day conference, free to all councils

LGA county lines masterclass
London, 31 
March 2020
LGA's one-day training course for elected members to learn about tackling county lines and wider criminal exploitation.

If you would like further information about these events or book a place, please contact