Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 10 July 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

10 July 2020


Good afternoon all,

I hope you have had a good week and an even better weekend on the way!

Independent Group Members at the LGA Annual Conference

Our members have done a great job this week at the online LGA annual conference, raising good questions and entering the debate. On your behalf, I chaired the session with LGA Vice President, Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson, one of our most successful Paralympians who spoke passionately in support of our councils and our shared work in encouraging people into active, healthy healthier lives. Tanni presented evidence of the value of leisure activities which you may want to use. Tanni is clearly very effective, as it has just been announced that pools can open from 11 July and leisure centres as a whole from 25 July.

Thanks to Councillor Sarah Rouse Leader of Malvern Hills District Council presenting in the Spotlight on the Councillor, a really good session. This linked with the launch of our new councillor guidance on reset and recovery.

Thanks to Independent Cabinet member from Pembrokeshire County Council, Neil Prior, who chaired an innovation session and appeared in another on sector-led improvement; and to Independent councillors Hannah Dalton and Wayne Davies who organised a conference social quiz evening for our members.

Concerted effort from the LGA

All of us involved in the LGA have been working in a co-ordinated way with a view to ministerial announcements at the LGA Annual Conference. Together we strongly made the case for funding the financial shortfall and also the essential replacement of income lost because of the COVID-19 lockdown. Councils provided evidence to back it up.

Secretary of State for Local Government, Robert Jenrick MP avoided slings and arrows on his recent planning decisions and delivered a strong, supportive address, thanking us for support. He outlined work to date; to 800,000 small businesses with £20 billion in total, including pausing of business rates; £105 billion for 15,000 rough sleepers; and £500 million in council tax hardship fund.

Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP went on to announce a new £500 million pot for councils and refund of three quarters of our lost income after the first 5 per cent. Lastly, he announced that tax deficits can be spread over three years.

Speaking later, Simon Clarke MP, Minister for Regional Growth, reminded us of the £3.6 billion Towns Fund, with 100 Town Deals (worth £500,000 to £1 million) and a Future High Streets Fund, which I hope our members will be accessing to improve parks, high streets and transport. Town Investment Plans worth up to £25million each need to be submitted by 31 October 2020 and 31 March 2021. Then there is the £900 million investment in infrastructure from the “getting Building” fund. A new announcement was £10 million from EU funding to support our visitor economy. Independent-led Cornwall Council got a good mention as they are strengthening flood defences to protect business and tourism.

Improving our economy

A powerful session on the economy for local government was from Paul Donovan and others in Re-Thinking Local: A Vision For The Future - views from the business sector. The slides for the Green Reset webinar are worth a look as is Local green jobs – accelerating a sustainable economic recovery, an Ecuity Consulting report for the LGA

The LGA has adapted its reshaping financial support programme to share councils’ learning in helping residents in need. You might be interested in the webinar on financial hardship and economic vulnerability on 16 July.

Chancellor’s £30 billion Statement on Wednesday

In Parliament this week, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, said our economy is driven by consumers and his plan to protect jobs certainly encourages consumerism. It includes a £10 voucher each to have a meal out, plus a cut in VAT down to 5 per cent in some areas, tempting people to spend. The reduction in stamp duty is intended to increase house sales and will most benefit the most expensive areas, though some would say it will “trickle down”.

Employers who keep their staff on reasonable pay after furlough will receive a thousand pounds a head. It’s a calculation, so will it be enough? Let’s hope so. For young people, likely to be the hardest hit, more coaching, more apprenticeships and skills funding. In addition, many billions for major building projects and £3 billion for 140,000 green jobs. What do you think?

This is significant expenditure, and it still leaves councils with a shortfall. Certainly, we’ll be doing our best to make sure there is no second wave of the disease and no other disasters.

Green Conference

The Association of Green Councillors held an excellent conference online last weekend, where I was pleased to contribute to the opening, straight after Sian Berry. Thanks to Sally Pickering for her good organisation.

5050 Parliament surveys

50/50 Parliament and the Centenary Action Group are conducting some research on the impact of COVID-19 on women councillors and potential candidates. Here are two surveys to complete, please do share your views and share with your networks:


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