Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 3 July 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

3 July 2020


Dear colleague,

LGA Conference

The LGA Annual Conference has begun! We can attend without even having to leave our chairs – so far we’ve heard from two Ministers and the Leader of the Opposition, next week we have the Leader of the Lib Dems and our session with Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson! You might also be interested in the presentations from this week’s spotlight sessions on learning through crisis, chaired by Cllr Neil Prior, Independent from Pembrokeshire, and on ‘a green reset’.

The new LGA conference paper sets out some key achievements of our councils with useful case studies, and demonstrates just what is needed to continue with our recovery as we ‘Re-think Local’. Do let me know your thoughts.

The document was launched at the opening sessions, where I spoke on your behalf.

All conference sessions can be found on the LGA's website. You will need to book on to each session individually, but it only takes a couple of minutes.

Coming up specially for our Group members;

New money

The Government have responded yesterday with new money, announced by the Secretary of State for Local Government, Rt.Hon. Robert Jenrick MP in his speech for the LGA. The “whatever it takes” has moved to a total so far of £4.4 billion to cover COVID-19 costs of our councils, including the money to care homes.

We also worked hard on recouping loss of income. The government have responded on losses that cannot be recovered but councils are expected to take the first 5 per cent, and 25 per cent after that, 75 per cent being made up by the government. It is a help, but clearly not enough and some councils will need to make more savings or reduce service. It also doesn’t help where councils do not directly deliver services, like some leisure provision which is costing councils big sums. We have flexibility on losses which can now be spread over three years, saving some councils from declaring a Section 114 this year.

In the June financial returns to government, 20 councils had stated they are at risk of having to declare an s.114 notice, uncertain how to make ends meet in year.

We continue to push for an increase and flexibility in the discretionary business rate grants. About £11 billion of the £12 billion have been handed out, leaving £1 billon. We are expecting a Treasury announcement next week.

On Friday, the Minister for Local Government, Simon Clarke MP, spoke at the LGA conference and announced a further £10 million drawn down from the EU funding for the visitor economy.

He also invited applications for improving digital connection and broadband including “every rural part of the country”.

Genuine devolution of power and money

Last weekend Michael Gove MP made a speech about future reorganisation of government, possibly including local government. According to the Minister, some Councils are considering combining, but there is currently no forced reorganisation. Certainly, working more closely together without losing one’s identity has to be a good way forward and most councils already do that to some extent. We are calling for genuine devolution of powers and money to our democratic and trusted local authorities to provide efficient and well-targeted services that are needed now and in the coming years. Something we will continue to do as we look towards the government’s recovery and devolution white paper due soon.

The Prime Minister also made a speech on a ‘new deal for Britain’ which, unsurprisingly had a focus on “Build, Build, Build”.

Our group has argued successfully with the LGA that our recovery has to be founded on social, economic and environmental principles. It is hard to see how “build, build build” will improve our impact on the environment and reduce emissions. We have argued for green infrastructure and jobs, including improved insulation of buildings, responsible for 18 per cent of our energy use.


The Council of European Municipalities and Regions has been putting together a response to the EU Green Deal, working with an international expert group. As a spokesperson on the environment, I have encouraged the EU to put Councils at the heart, engaging citizens, transforming behaviours and creating conditions and infrastructure to enable real change with strong local leadership. That’s you and me leading and we will need finance allocated. The first parts of the Green Deal are in progress. Setting targets, actions to reduce waste and emissions, and adaptation to climate change section is out for consultation until 9 July. If you would like to share your views and are not a member of our Environment think tank please get in touch with the office who can send you the documents and/or add you to our email group.

The LGA is also restarting the task group with government ministers about leaving the EU, looking at how to best resolve any impacts where Councils have a duty. Cllr Gillian Ford and I are representing you there. There are two sticking points you will have seen in the press: The EU regulations are all to be adopted by our government at the outset, but they want the ability to change them in future. Also the EU want to continue fishing across borders which disadvantages us. I will update you further as work progresses.


If you would like to get more involved with our Board work we have a number of roles to fill, with most Boards needing substitute members this year. You can find the expression of interest form here, due into the office by 10 July.

Thank you

Thank you to you all for your continued good work. Thank you to our Independent Group Leaders and many other leading councillors for contributing to debate, making our key representations to government strong and evidence-based.

Thanks to Cllr Carolyn Rule for chairing and members attending the South West regional meeting this week. My “take-away” was the plan to arrange webinars and meetings for volunteer groups and for the public, within our wards or council area.

I look forward to seeing you on line at our forthcoming events.

Best wishes to you all.


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