Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 4 September 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

4 September 2020


Good afternoon!

A warm welcome back after the August break. I hope you have managed to find a short escape somewhere!

I have had a break in the UK, but was flat out until mid-August, many national discussions continuing apace, on funding, COVID-19, devolution and arrangements on leaving the EU.

Work has also continued, preparing for a busy autumn of think tank activity, Board meetings, workshops, regional meetings, our Annual Conference on 6 November, and Be a Councillor activity.

With many elections taking place next May, our Be a Councillor resources will provide helpful tools to you and prospective candidates. If you would like to support new candidates by being a Be a Councillor Champion, please let the office know.

We also have our flagship Next Generation Programme for aspiring leaders starting in October. Applications close on 11 September so please do make sure to complete the application form if you would like to take part.

Sweeping planning changes

The Government seems determined to make sweeping changes to our planning system. It isn’t perfect, by any means, but these changes centralise policies and reduce local powers over local decisions, so clearly not in the right direction! You can read my initial comments. Huge thanks to Independent Group council leaders, executive members and our think tank members for their initial thoughts.

Planning is a major issue for our group members. The Government has also recalculated the number of dwellings they think each of our councils should take, based on their own national formula. The formula puts more dwellings in the most expensive rural areas and less in the areas where it is needed most. This is causing an outcry, not least from the government’s own foot soldiers. The Government has not altered their objective of 300,000 new “quality” dwellings, every year.

Both consultation documents are out (links below) and the LGA will be responding. I encourage you and your councils to respond directly too.

Changes to the current planning system: deadline 1 October

Planning for the future (white paper): deadline 29 October

To hear from some experts, and gather your views, we have the planning workshop for Independent Group Councillors on 18 September. Over 100 members have signed up so far. We are having a good number of break-out groups, so you will get a chance to properly discuss. If you have yet to secure your place, please email

Please note the time for the workshop has changed to a midday start, to accommodate the climate change events being held by the LGA before and after. A full day of meetings potentially, but all extremely useful and timely!

Tackling climate change

Thanks to our members for their ongoing contributions on the issue, through our annual conference, workshop, Executive meetings, think tank, correspondence and our LGA Board. Our final LGA report with the Centre for Public Scrutiny is just out to assist all councils. It includes 10 questions to scrutinise your councils’ own plan.

The LGA and the Centre for Public Scrutiny are delivering a webinar on scrutinising climate action plans on 18 September:

AM session

PM session

Going Unitary?

We have long called for devolution of power and money to our councils. The Minister for Local Government, however, has been promoting government re-organisation. Our Group has pushed back. Please read my previous comment on reorganisation.

The District Council Network of the LGA has launched its devolution report, and thanks to our representatives Jason Zadrozni and Sarah Rouse, are now representing members’ requests to better make the case for Districts. If you would like an Independent Group discussion on re-organisation in your area, please let Sarah in the office know who can help with the logistics.


A huge thank you to those who have shared experiences that demonstrate what is needed to uphold civility and good standards of behaviour towards all Councillors and Mayors. Working with colleagues across our four countries of the UK during August, we have jointly supported the LGA document on civility. A model code of conduct will also be out soon.

There is also an event coming up on maintaining your own resilience as a councillor

Monday 14 September 2020, 10.30am - 11.45am - This webinar will look at the role of the councillor during the pandemic, share stories from colleagues about how they are managing to balance different demands, what to do when it becomes overwhelming, and share tips and techniques which you may wish to consider in terms of your own individual health. Book your place on the webinar.

Wishing you all the best for the year ahead, I look forward to working with you as we navigate the many changes facing our councils.


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