Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 8 May 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

8 May 2020


Good Morning Colleagues,

Writing to you on VE 75 day, I hope you will be able to access some of the commemorative activities on TV, online or by safely joining a front garden tea party. You might like to join me in hosting a virtual afternoon tea and toast to all who worked so hard to keep Britain safe then and now. It is more poignant that ever, bearing in mind the current battle against the Covid-19 virus.

Lifting Lockdown

I have had useful discussions this week with fellow LGA leaders and colleagues from around the Country, looking at what needs to be in place to lift our Council services from the lockdown, and advise the government. 

Our Independent Group Council Leaders had a very productive meeting this week and agreed to meet online fortnightly. We discussed the recovery to feed into the Government plans.

The below is a set of principles we’re getting behind as we try and inform the government’s recovery plan. Please let us have your good points too.

  1. Social, environmental and economic recovery need to be taken together.
  2. Funding of local government to ensure our role in the recovery, thus spending power needs to be maintained.
  3. Economic development should include regeneration of town centres, local business and green industry, supported by local leadership of training and skills, so as to bring exported jobs back to Britain and build up manufacturing where possible.
  4. Rural investment to support local communities and the economy overall.
  5. Make the local economy a statutory duty of local government, with support from LEPs as decided by councils
  6. Grants to businesses should be conditional on sustainability targets, no-oversized bonuses and on paying UK taxes without overseas avoidance measures.
  7. Encourage UK SME procurement
  8. Devolution down to the most local tier of local government with financial flexibilities and local revenue kept in local government.
  9. Building communities not just houses – flexibility around planning targets, locally-led decision making, incentives for builders to build where permissions given, penalties when they don’t, bring “right to buy” back locally, so councils can decide the discount and keep all the capital receipts raised.
  10. Local flexibility over council tax and re-banding

The government is expecting to announce some lifting of current social distancing guidance in order to get more people back to work. There is special concern around school transport and wrap-around childcare if grandparents are isolating.

As requested by government, the recycling sites are now opening, with different approaches in place, including an appointment arrangement in most.

The COVID-19 tracing app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight, including the involvement of some of our members. Carrying a phone with the Bluetooth switched on, gives other concerns, and new advice is offered against Cyber attack. The UK’s National Cyber Security Centre and the US Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency have published a joint warning about these threats and advice for local government, health care bodies and pharmaceutical bodies. 

Yesterday Government published updated guidance for employers on social distancing in the workplace during COVID-19 and it is likely to be updated again early next week. The LGA are keeping their coronavirus hub updated so please do refer to this if residents are asking for guidance.


As long as public bodies are making decisions, we need scrutiny. At this time of crisis, there is every reason to enhance the support that scrutiny gives to better decision-making. Our councillors and their connections to the community are vital to draw upon when solutions are local. The Centre for Public Scrutiny have guides and a helpdesk. You can also join a training session on the 15 or 19 May for scrutiny chairs and committee members if you need further support. To find out more visit the Centre for Public Scrutiny website or contact Sarah in the office.

Support and Ideas

Although many of our events and programmes have had to be cancelled we are developing virtual programmes and other ways to access the development opportunities and support members need at this time. You can contact your regional peer directly or the office if you would like to access peer support, online coaching or other support. 

New case studies have been added to the LGA’s good practice webpage demonstrating good practice in areas such as public health, cyber and digital solutions and finances which you might also find helpful.

Scrutiny of Government on Funding for Councils

Finance is a worry, particularly, the loss of income through closing car parks and leisure centres. The situation began with the government saying “we’ll do whatever it takes” but has moved on to something less. This week, the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick gave evidence to the Housing and Communities Local Government Select Committee, assuring Councils that we will be “fully compensated” for the Covid-19 tasks we are asked to undertake.

Select Committee Chairman Clive Betts said multiple councils are saying they have committed to spend, or have already spent, more money than the Government has given them. Mr Jenrick replied:

“From the returns that we have received so far, covering the first two months of the response, March and April, it’s clear that the funding we have provided is more than enough in total for the response that is being done brilliantly on the ground by local councils.”

This is not what our Leaders are saying. It is critical that all councils make sure everything is included in their returns to MHCLG, and ideally do share these with the LGA so we can make the case on your behalf as well. Councils will need to be here to assist with the recovery, so we are also calling for support on loss of income, vital to many Councils. We have also called for parity with the NHS, whose £13.4bn debt has been written off, money we could use.

Have a really good bank holiday weekend and I look forward to communicating next week.

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