Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 19 June 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

19 June 2020


Good afternoon all! Greetings from Lincolnshire!

Tackling impacts of COVID-19, the UN and resetting the LGA’s position has exercised us this week.

Council’s opinion polls soar

Councillors have shown what is possible when leadership is rooted in local communities. Despite all, when rapid action was needed, we delivered it. Happily, public recognition is shown in the June quarterly opinion survey results. Our reputation has risen on all measures, public satisfaction (87 per cent), responding and informing residents (68/69 per cent) and trust (71 per cent).

We are trusted and well-placed to be at the heart of leading the recovery and recreation of a better future; one where the economy, community and environmental issues are tackled together. Cross-party at the LGA, we are compiling a strong case, demonstrating what we have achieved and what is needed next.

Getting all children back to school

Our weekly Chairman’s meeting with leading councillors also raised issues about how to get all children back to school, as they have in Wales, albeit only a third at a time. There is considerable concern in some places about the logistics of enforcing a 2m distance rule at the same time, especially on school transport. We have pointed out the statutory duties to provide school transport would have to be lifted or funded.


We are looking at devolution of skills to councils to improve our local economies and opportunities for young people. You may have seen on twitter our call for councils to keep any unpaid business grants to support the over-subscribed discretionary grants. Under pressure, data-sharing is improving, but more is needed if councils are to make decisions such as lockdown of certain areas and support for those who are self-isolating. The work done by you and your councils has been quite phenomenal, thank you.

More businesses are being allowed to reopen next week, and more public services, including libraries and cafes.

Clarity on remote meetings 

Watching the MPs troop into parliament made me think we could have similar democratic meetings again. However, the LGA’s legal advice on the regulations is that councillors are not allowed to gather for meetings; the legal limit is no more than six people outdoors or two people indoors. Our legal counsel has advised us that council meetings would not count as "reasonably necessary for work" nor "fulfilling a legal obligation/participating in legal proceedings" and so currently cannot go ahead.

The regulations should be amended, or guidance issued to allow councillors to hold hybrid meetings – determined locally, allowing members to go in or access meetings remotely. We have raised this as a priority with Government, including in our most recent conversations with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

International recognition for the LGA Independent Group

I represented the LGA this week at a European meeting on the United Nations, now at 75 years since its creation. It was a chance to demonstrate how our local councils are brilliant at supporting our communities in a crisis. In the longer term, we work effectively at the local level on the UN’s 17 sustainable goals, including tackling inequalities, climate change and improving infrastructure.

Regional Independent group meetings

Thanks to all who attended and contributed to the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside meeting online this week. Members spoke about the importance of good scrutiny and communication within councils, as well as local efforts to recover from the pandemic and flooding – hitting areas just before and since coronavirus began to spread. There is also a very mixed approach to holding meetings and ensuring the democratic decision making processes that are so important.

We have developed a range of support tools you might find useful:

Code of Conduct

The model code, referred to in last week’s bulletin, is out for consultation. Please have a look and feel free to say what you think. Details are coming soon on a series of virtual meetings where you can also have your say, I am due to chair one on the 29 July, time tbc.

Dates for your diary

Please sign up to our virtual event on Tuesday 23 June, 12:00pm - 13:20pm on Using Marmot principles to tackle health inequalities and COVID-19. Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director, UCL Institute of Health Equity will deliver the keynote speech and we will also hear from local case study areas on how they and their Health and Wellbeing Boards are leading on the wider determinants of health and tackling health inequalities.

8 July, 10am - 11am: Baroness and Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson will look at an inclusive recovery, including the importance of public transport, leisure and physical activity in our Our LGA Conference Session. Book your free place here.

There are also free, virtual events coming up on tackling domestic violence, housing delivery, child poverty and creating more inclusive local economies. Book your free place on these webinars here.


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