Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 31 July 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

31 July 2020


Good Afternoon

Welcome to the last Independent Group bulletin before the August break. I hope are able to take a much-needed break ready for the September start.

Green Success in Brighton

Congratulations to Phelim Mac Cafferty, leader of Brighton and Hove Council and his team. They have kept their group steady and working well for the community and are now in the largest group and thus taking responsibility for running the Council.


Congratulations and welcome to all who are now appointed to LGA Boards, Committees and outside bodies. On behalf of the Group Executive we are looking forward to working with you in what will be busy and challenging times. It’s great to have terrific skills, experience and talent in our group, and ready to serve nationally. Thank you. The Office will be updating the website over the summer, ready for the September start.

Group awards

Which councillor would you  like to nominate for an award?  Who has gone above and beyond in this difficult year? We are seeking nominations for the Clarence Barrett Award and citations which will be presented at our annual conference. Please send your nominations to Sarah Woodhouse.

LGIU & CCLA Cllr Awards 2020

Nominations are now open for the 2020 LGIU & CCLA Cllr Awards, showcasing the vital work of councillors across England and Scotland. Now, more than ever, we need to honour these unsung heroes of local government who are working tirelessly to keep the country afloat during the pandemic. There are several Cllr Award categories celebrating the varied work of councillors including new categories for 2020, Collaborative Working and Covid-19 Hero. If you know a councillor worthy of recognition, make sure you put them forward today

Local Partnerships Impact Report

Local Partnerships do costed work for Councils across England and Wales, backed by the LGA and Treasury funds, in order to bring improvements to the work of our Councils. The impact of their work is clarified in a recent report which is worth a read and gives ideas that you may want to take up. For example, developing action plans  in response to climate emergency declarations, reviewing climate emergency strategies and an audit to establish a clear emissions baseline. They also work on waste, housing refit, infrastructure, health and social care, energy, commercialisation and local government re-organisation. Give a ring if you want a piece of work doing.

Council Leaders  

The Independent Group has 32 Council Leaders invited to a fortnightly meeting online to assess what our Group Councils want the Independent Group and the LGA to influence. A key priority we all share is the social, economic and environmental recovery our country needs. The EU has agreed to put 25% of their funds into green infrastructure, and UK industries need to compete. Cllr Tim Gwilliam, Leader in the Forest of Dean made a good point about pushing LEPs to invest at least 30% of their funds in rural development projects, something many of us would support and like to see.

Regional Events

It"s been a busy week of member meetings, We held two regional webinars – for the East of England and East Midlands and another for the South East and London. Both very well attended with members sharing their experience of responding to coronavirus and our priorities in the recovery going forward, devolution and concerns around planning.

District Council Network think tank

Our District Think Tank members also met this week to discuss devolution and reorganisation, aiming to influence a  White Paper which is due out in September. We have been unequivocal that one size does not fit all, that any reorganisation should be bottom up and wanted by all local councils and residents. We called for devolution of powers and money to our local authorities and a promise to deliver greater devolution out of Westminster was in the Conservative party manifesto. Government re-organisation was not and is beyond their democratic remit. We were promised devolution and there should not be strings attached to that which force us into unitaries or combined authorities nor having a mayor. Our position paper on this will be published on our website next week and conversations are continuing, with region-specific gatherings sessions starting over the summer.  

As previously mentioned, the government has agreed to fund ¾ of our income loss due to covid rules, after the first 5% loss. That does not do “whatever it takes” to respond to the Covid crisis. That leaves us short and under pressure. To get the funds we need, the government is asking us to spend money on re-organisation, a distraction not to be under-estimated, at this difficult time when we need all our resources focussed on recovery.

A Minister stated that the "gold standard" is Unitary with an elected Mayor. The local councillor connection with residents is a strength of our democracy and especially of our Independent Group Councillors. This is much harder to maintain when we have far fewer councillors, much bigger areas to support and big parties on the TV. The Independent Leader of Cornwall, Cllr Julian German, points out that to undergo further re-organisation, the devolution would have to be very substantial indeed to be worthwhile.


With scrutiny temporarily paused in lockdown, our Independent group in North Kesteven decided to continue, set up a task and finish group of our own and created a group agreed strategy for the Council’s recovery. Perhaps you would like to share one from your Council? You might also want to make sure that if there is a second wave,  your Council’s emergency plan is up to date, widely understood and fit for purpose.

Code of Conduct

I also chaired a webinar on the LGA’s draft code of conduct this week, open for consultation until the 17th August. There is also one more webinar on the 5th August chaired by Cllr Sue Baxter (Ind), chair of NALC. You can sign up for free and ask questions. We had over 400 people signed up online, so it is a good way to influence national thinking. There is considerable pressure from monitoring officers to take a tougher line against councillors, but this is never going to be a replacement for criminal proceedings. Please have a look at the code and comment. Keeping responses and process proportionate remains a priority. Most of all, it’s up to us to maintain standards, calling for good behaviour whenever necessary. 

Thank you for all your ongoing work. Please plan or join a "Be a Councillor" event in the Autumn, ready for big elections next May.  Also look out for details of our Next Generation Programme which will be opening for applications next week. This is our flagship development programme for aspiring and new leaders, held in Warwick (with social distance and safety being a priority) and has proven invaluable to many of our members

Have a great August.

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