Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 12 June 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

12 June 2020


Good afternoon all

Speaking up on your behalf

This week’s discussions with ministers and some of our leading councillors across England and Wales have focused on how to get the economy improved from our position, as probably the worst hit in the world. The current figures show the UK’s economy showed a decline of 10.4 per cent from February to April, compared with the previous three months, shrinking by 20.4 per cent last month alone. This decline is affecting almost all areas of activity, according to the Office of National Statistics, so we can see that the expectation of business rates as a solution to council funding is no longer the right model.

Councils continue to face increased costs and reduced income, especially where they rely heavily on car parking and other businesses. Councils overall have been compensated for costs so far with central government funds, but some are in an especially difficult position, especially regarding loss of income. Some councils at the decision point now have been in the news and the Government is promising more to match evidenced needs. At the LGA, we are continuing our focus, making the case clearly for local government being at the heart of our local communities, driving the solutions most effectively.


A worrying direction from Robert Jenrick was published in the media this week with the Secretary of State saying it is time to ‘rethink’ the “overly bureaucratic” planning process. This comes in response to a series of essays on planning published by the Policy Exchange Think Tank. His hope appears to be reform of the planning system, possibly with the introduction of zonal planning and deregulation of use classes, would help the economy bounce back from a coronavirus recession.

We have said many times that the planning system already has a presumption in favour of development and targets to speed up the process to just a few weeks. Indeed, there are hundreds of thousands of permissions given and waiting to be built. Less attention to the applications can only mean poorer developments.

Taking away local planning powers reduces democracy reduces public engagement and damages our ability to create the very things the Government says it wants. Clearly there is considerable work for us to do here. The LGA’s position, which reiterates that councils aren’t the problem, can be found in this parliamentary briefing.

Public poll

The LGA has undertaken a public poll to look at residents’ views on how councils have supported their communities and their response to COVID-19. You may be doing similar polls locally. This insight is based on a poll which ran from 15 to 22 May and is an exercise we’re conducting monthly. The first set of results and the full report are now available.

Black Lives Matter

Following the LGA’s statement last week that reiterated that racism has no place in our communities or in our lives, I wanted to share with you some resources you might find useful in regards to the Black Lives Matter movement. Many of your areas will have had recent demonstrations and protests taking place and the LGA will shortly be publishing guidance to support authorities where statues are being removed. If you want to find out more about Black Lives Matter, there is plenty of information on its website, including petitions to sign, books to read and talks to watch. Black Lives Matter UK has a Facebook page, also pointing to lots of useful resources for us and our residents while the National Literary Trust has compiled a reading list for 0-16 year olds, which you may want to share with parents and carers in your communities.

Green jobs

This week the LGA published a new report on green jobs finding that 700,000 direct jobs could be created in England’s low-carbon and renewable energy economy by 2030, rising to more than 1.18 million by 2050. Our Group is adamant that our country’s recovery from coronavirus must be social, environmental and economic. To that end we are calling on the Government to work with councils to develop options, including proposals for a jobs guarantee programme which can provide new opportunities, including in the low-carbon sector. We are calling for national skills and employment schemes and funding to be devolved to councils so we can work with businesses and education providers to train and retrain young people and older workers so they can benefit from new local, green opportunities.

LGA Conference

As part of the LGA’s virtual conference, I will be chairing a session with our keynote speaker, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, who is not only a Paralympian and advocate for many causes, but one of our Vice Presidents and supporter of local government. Tanni will be speaking on the importance of an inclusive approach to recovery, particularly the role of public transport, physical activity through gyms and leisure centres, and exercise for children and young people. Join us on 8 July at 10am for what is sure to be a fascinating hour. You can sign up to attend this free webinar on our events page.

New Social Care Taskforce

It was announced on Monday that David Pearson, previously at Nottinghamshire County Council and President of ADASS, will Chair the National COVID-19 Social Care Support Taskforce “to drive [the Government's] COVID action plan further”. He is well known in the local government and adult social care sectors and is joined by Sarah Pickup, our Deputy CEx, who will also be on the taskforce. We will watch their work with interest.

Member code of conduct consultation

The measures that have been introduced to curb the spread of COVID-19 have changed the way councils work, introducing remote meetings and decision-making processes as everyday occurrences. With more communication taking place remotely and online between councillors and residents, particularly through social media, there may be more difficult and heated discussions as some seek to express their fear and frustrations. However, abuse, threatening and intimidatory communication will always be unacceptable.

As recommended by the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report into Local Government Ethical Standards the LGA has updated our Model Member Code of Conduct. The plan is to make sure the code helps councillors focus on high standards but is not open to political abuse. Please take a few moments to share your views by completing our consultation questionnaire, open until Monday 17 August. We welcome contributions and suggested amendments from individual councillors and officers, as well as from councils.

This follows on from an event on Civility in Public Life at the end of last year and three workshops earlier this year. Please email if you have any queries.

UK Municipal Bonds Agency webinar: Tuesday 16 June at 12pm

With uncertainty about the future rates and purposes of the Central Government Public Works Loan Board (PWLB), there is a strong case for acting now to take advantage of local government lending and borrowing opportunities. We are therefore holding a webinar covering the current opportunity to borrow or lend funds as part of the UK Municipal Bonds Agency’s (UKMBA).

The Bonds Agency was initiated by the LGA to provide another, less costly source of borrowing and indeed, lending for councils. It sits alongside the PWLB and allows councils to diversify their borrowing. The UKMBA will have pooled bonds of short, mid and long-term maturity, suitable for councils with even a modest borrowing requirement, available in September.

The webinar will provide an opportunity to hear details about the simplified process for taking part. We will also be interested to hear from you about any current or future borrowing requirements that your authority or a group of authorities have, and about your thoughts on the types of bond issues that might meet your needs, for example, Green Bonds. If you would like to participate in the webinar or have any questions please email

Good luck in all you are doing. Let us know if I or the officers can help with anything.

Best wishes,


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