Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 1 May 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

1 May 2020


Dear friends and colleagues, 

Good afternoon!

I hope you and yours are well and keeping safe. I imagine like me, you are finding that working from home is keeping you very busy! Council meetings are (mostly) running again now and the community has lots of new needs that require new resolutions. I hope you are still finding a slot for essential daily exercise which also helps our mental health – and I need plenty of that! If you like wildlife, I’ve posted some photos on my facebook page from my local area. What are you doing to re-energise given everything going on?

Preparing for recovery

This week, I met with Simon Clarke MP, Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, leading on economic recovery. He asked what councils can do to help encourage the economy back to a “new normal”. I made the point that any recovery or resetting of our communities needs to be led by social, economic and environmental principles and opportunities. Can we maintain some of the current benefits of clean environment as people work more from home and the stronger community support? We will need to work on matching skills to jobs and tackling unemployment.

It's therefore important that local government should be the driving engine at the heart of our local economic recovery and Local Enterprise Partnerships and partners should “row in” behind. I also raised procurement regulations as a barrier that wanted removing to enable us to better support our local economies and the complicated regulations that enable the Housing Infrastructure Fund funding to be released, such as at Ashfield District Council. I also raised that both town centres and rural areas had important contributions to make, and the benefits of manufacturing green industries and clean energy. We suggested some capital up front would help, as in the UK Prosperity Fund. The Government is keen to get people back to work safely and is interested in any case studies of initiatives councils are putting in place to support that. The Minister is also asking you and me for live examples of what councils are doing that will support the new economy.

Inclusive growth

Thanks to Cllr Ford for her notes from the Cities and Regions Board at the LGA this week, talking about best practice examples of inclusive growth driven by local authorities, focusing on jobs, skills, infrastructure and transport. We are calling for free ports, devolution and a flexible UK Prosperity fund.

Green deal

In Europe this week, the discussion continued at the Council of European Municipalities and Regions on the new Green Deal, and was a great opportunity to include your points sent in by our think tank members, thank you. The EU target is still zero net emissions by 2050, which still means significant impact of climate change, and out of kilter with many of our councils. We are looking at the role of local government in helping to meet targets and how we might use our own purchasing power to enhance sustainability. The Committee of the Regions has also responded.

Planning and housing

Our active think tank members have this week shared thinking about what our planning and housing activity should look like going forward and I have raised these with the Minister. Planning is not a barrier as very few are refused and there are many thousands of homes with permission, waiting to be built. That undermines our Local Plan, giving the developers licence to choose more land to sit on. We raised the suggestion of charging council tax on homes whether they were built or not after five years, as an incentive to developers. It was suggested that we may have a future session on planning, so ideas on how you think it should be changed are welcome. The latest e-bulletin from the Planning Advisory Service is out and is always full of useful information.


Our pressure for funding to assist in bringing parity of care with the NHS were heard with the latest round of £1.6 billion grants from the Government. This time we emphasised loss of income through car parking, leisure centres and lower business rates coming in. Councils were asked exactly how much they needed and the resulting distribution benefits different councils much more. It still does not fill the gap, however. Some finance officers are thinking about issuing notice that their council cannot make ends meet.

In your council

Your council may have reduced the number of meetings, but be mindful that the six month rule still applies. A councillor who does not attend any formal meetings for six months is disqualified, unless the council chooses to meet and pass a motion otherwise. You can qualify by attending a formal online parish or town council meetings or outside bodies, in your line of duty, so make sure the council knows about them. If your council needs examples of how others are meeting well remotely do refer them to the LGA’s website.

Wishing you all the very best.

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