Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 3 April 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

3 April 2020


Dear friends and colleagues, 

Our Councils and our members

A huge thank you to all who are beavering away online and in your communities to support residents and share useful information that you have from the LGA and from your Councils. If you haven’t already got a resident “mutual aid” group, then it’s a good idea to set one up (I have given the plan we used to set up ten in my County area to Sarah.) We are working on 12 weeks lockdown at the moment, but this may well be for the long-haul. If we could really prevent it spreading for even a short period, then it would cease to exist, as it does not survive long outside a person.

I hope, like me, you have all of your informal meetings with your group and with staff at Councils started up again, using Microsoft Team, Zoom or Webbex.  A What’s App group running concurrently for that committee allows people to ask to speak, so quite big meetings still work OK, though I would not like to use it for a contentious planning meeting, currently on hold in most areas.

National Regulations

Last night the Secretary Of State for Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP, has issued regulations to accompany the new Coronavirus Act 2020, cancelling our AGMs, relaxing accounting and audit timescales, and being able to vote remotely. The LGA are still seeking clarification in several areas and are working on a briefing for members, which we’ll share as soon as possible. Most of our day to day meetings, scrutiny and executive can work fine remotely, I believe. Over 90% of our planning applications are decided at officer level, so that continues. However, I am concerned how we can ensure proper democratic engagement in the very contentious planning applications and accountability at this time. We at the LGA, have asked for relaxation of the performance measures and non-determination.

Many of you have been getting in touch with Sarah and I where challenges arise, and please keep doing so. If you have any good practice on remote working we would also like to hear and share that with others. 


At the LGA, we have been determined in our approach with central government regarding PPE, including for care workers and social workers entering people’s homes. Since so few people are tested, we cannot tell who is infectious and who not. Following our conversation with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, Jo Churchill, new PPE guidelines have been issued and we need the equipment to match.  Care workers should use personal protective equipment (PPE) for activities that bring them into close personal contact, such as washing and bathing, personal hygiene and contact with bodily fluids. Aprons, gloves and fluid repellent surgical masks should be used.

Food for the Isolated

You will have seen the Government has started delivering some food parcels to people who are clinically very vulnerable to the disease and therefore instructed to self-isolate. They need to actually respond to the letter asking for help, before anything will be organised for them. We have pushed for better quality and consistency across the country. Some Councillors with volunteers and some Councils are already doing so much that they feel they might as well include everyone who is in need. How is this working in your area?

Domestic Violence

The lockdown has also got worrying knock-on impacts for households where domestic abuse is an issue, an issue taken up by our Safer and Stronger Communities Board. The Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) has developed a very useful collection of domestic abuse resources, recommended by our representative, Cllr Hannah Dalton.


The impact on carer’s is also considerable as day centres, cafes and restaurants have closed. A raft of recommendations has come from a just published scrutiny review (Carers Spotlight Review) chaired by one of our LGA Independent Group members Cllr Claire Wright.


We had our board meeting online this week. We have ratified the decision to cancel the Annual Conference and repay or forward any payments to next year. I flagged the need to invite this year’s Next Generation cohort to next year’s conference and there was agreement to make that happen. Business is continuing extremely well, with some staff volunteering for redeployment and others very busy with policy development, lobbying and all the national work.

Green Deal

Thanks to those on the think tank who found time to consider the Climate Pact, the first part of the Green Deal coming out of Europe. Over a hundred thousand councils in Europe are represented in the Council of European Municipalities and Regions. I included your points in our response, particularly with regard to proper public engagement in decision-making at a very local level by Councils, thus engaging the very engine that will make the changes needed. There is still discussion in the EU about the rate of change and we could learn from the current situation on how to do things better with less resources in the future. The Green Deal is now open to public consultation, so please feel free to contribute and copy me in so I can better represent you. Just as a useful reference, this list of 31 climate actions for Councils is pretty good.

Fire and Rescue Service

Thanks to Cllr Ian Stephens, our group representative and Chairman of the LGA Fire safety Committee for producing this set of guidelines for fire authorities to help them adapt and mitigate the effects of the Climate Emergency. Not only are our fire services doing their part for the green agenda, our fire fighters have stepped up again and are going above and beyond their typical role to lend extra support during the coronavirus pandemic – see the media team’s press release Coronavirus: firefighters to deliver food and medicine, drive ambulances and retrieve bodies.

Air quality

DEFRA has responded to our calls to take a proportionate response to enforcing deadlines on reporting and monitoring as the crisis unfolds. Recent advice to English local authorities (excluding London), clarifies temporary arrangements for local air quality monitoring (obligations in Part IV of the Environment Act 1995). “Where it would be unsafe to do so or if circumstances require resource to be deployed elsewhere, councils are not expected to deploy or collect diffusion tubes in line with the 2020 Diffusion Tube Monitoring Calendar on 1 April 2020 and 29 April 2020.” DEFRA’s Local Air Quality Management Helpdesk can be contacted at

Think tanks

As our work continues at full speed and new government guidance is published almost daily, I would encourage you to sign up for the policy think tanks that interest you the most as these forums are being used by the office and lead members to provide regular updates.

Wishing you all the very best at this difficult time. Huge thanks to our council leaders and members who have brought issues to our attention for feeding into the government, bringing some important improvements in national guidance.


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