Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 30 March 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

30 March 2020


Dear friends and colleagues, 

Last Thursday, clapping applause for front line workers included support for our Councils, the fourth emergency service, who are doing an amazing job in a wartime theatre. Thank you.

It really is a time to rally everyone together and locally, many of us councillors are supporting or initiating local support groups. Let me know if you want a starter plan.

Keeping up to date

Information is coming thick and fast, and we have flagged with comms teams in your councils the need to make sure all members receive updates. Key links to information on the pandemic we’re facing are below – useful for you and to also share with others:

If not already, you may also want to sign up for MHCLG updates.

Working with the Government

Nationally we continue to work with the government, having completed the emergency legislation and now implementing the emergency measures, with a conference call twice a week. If you have any issues you want me to raise, please let me know.

The Government is in listening mode and been responsive to almost all of the issues we raised, much of it in the Coronavirus Act that has now received Royal Assent giving the government sweeping emergency powers. Regulations will be out in the next week or so.

The Act frees us up to work and meet remotely, one of our Independent Councillors, Cllr Mark Bamforth, was on the Politics Show as someone already doing this. We’ve worked with Mark to secure him permission to attend meetings from home however he has yet been able to vote. We are now encouraged to use the new powers and show how agile our councils can be.


Our Councils received £3.4 billion Friday, including £1.6 billion to tackle the crisis. Supporting self-employed and employed people with 80% income up to £2,500 is remarkable, especially from a conservative government who have put "ideology aside" to focus on doing "whatever it takes".   


The most vulnerable £1.5 million people have had a letter from the NHS telling them to self-isolate at home for 12 weeks in order to "keep safe and protect the NHS". All Councils have set up "hubs" and have received a list of who are their most vulnerable residents. The government has a contract with a food supplier to send food in bulk to each Council, which started to arrive this weekend. Do let us know how that’s working in your area.  

Planning and housing

Are you registered to receive the planning guidance from MHCLG and Planning Advisory Service updates? Definitely an area of our work to watch as there is still significant pressure to continue building large numbers of houses, over and above local need.  

We are also tasked with getting rough sleepers off the street and keeping them in accommodation, which is no easy task, many of them experiencing complex needs including ongoing mental health issues or substance misuse, which may require regular methadone or other medical support for. Work with our voluntary sector will be especially important to ensure we access and meet the needs of all.

LGA Board work continues 

In response to everything happening locally the team in the office (working remotely) are still busy supporting members, responding to queries, working with our Parliamentarians as the Coronavirus Bill made its way through Parliament and ensuring your comments are escalated to Ministers and civil servants.

Our Peers are continuing to engage with our Leaders and are available for you to contact if you have any issues.

LGA Board meetings continued virtually last week with the City Regions, Community Wellbeing and Improvement and Innovation Boards going ahead.

One of the main issues discussed at recent Community Wellbeing and Culture, Tourism and Sport meetings was the importance of supporting our mental health.

Two initiatives that might be of interest to your residents are:

Sport England’s ‘Join the Movement’ which seeks to bring greater attention to #StayInWorkOut - and inspire and inform the public about the many fun, and creative ways they can keep moving.

The campaign will:

  • Provide a web hub with curated home workout options from popular fitness brands and influencers, like Les Mills on Demand, Joe Wicks (The Body Coach) and FIIT, many of whom are offering free and extended trials to help people get easy access to home exercise. 
  • Encourage people to go outside for one piece of exercise a day, in line with government advice.
  • Build a movement by asking people to share their own hints, tips and home-based exercise inspiration using #StayInWorkOut

#librariesathome will be launching shortly and will be the full range of remote services including:

  • Home Library Services or their replacements
  • Expanding current e-lending offer
  • Highlighting selected digital resources and activities tailored to library users’ needs
  • New live programming (eg online storytime and book groups)

You may have seen that e-book loans from libraries have gone up by 600% due to people staying in.

Some Useful links for parents

In case it is useful, some information you may want to pass on in your newsletters in support of parents with young children is below. There is a rich variety of free activities springing up online and I am encouraging my residents to explore what’s available.

Social media sites are full of ideas to keep young children entertained while parents juggle everything, for example:

  • Five Minute Mum, on facebook and Instagram, as well as a book on amazon, provides quick ideas to entertain little children
  • Tumble Tots UK is running toddler exercise classes at 10am on their facbook, Monday – Friday
  • MamaTribe UK is another site providing a range of activity for children of all ages including French, dance and baby massage
  • Dazzle and Fizz on Instagram have 10am and 11am sessions for pre-schoolers including songs, dancing and crafts
  • Captain Fantastic Kids is an online entertainer for children running sessions for 1-11 year olds, Monday - Friday

There are also story times being led by local libraries online, Chester Zoo has a tour of it’s most popular creatures on its website and many of the national museums now have virtual tours for children on their websites.

Thank you to all of you for your ongoing hard work, we are here to support so do stay in touch,

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