Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 11 September 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

11 September 2020


Good afternoon!

This week the government has announced further lockdown measures from Monday. Up to six people is OK, in or outdoors, and not counting restaurants, places of Worship and hospitality venues, who can carry on. Covid safety of keeping social distances, hand washing, masks in shops etc all continue.

Minister, Simon Clarke resigned for personal reasons a few days ago, with Luke Hall MP stepping into his role. This may slow down some of the reorganisation Simon was pushing. We also know that the government may have spread itself too thinly with so many big changes at once – we are lobbying hard on behalf of our members in regards to planning and reorganisation, which is different to the devolution we want.

Member Questionnaire

Covid-19 has been incredibly disruptive, tragic, worrying and changed the way we work. Our Councils and communities have led an incredible response, needed now and in the long term for our economic, social and environment recovery. This is a chance to reflect and capture your experience and help make the changes that we want to see in the longer term.

This survey of our group will help inform our messaging going forward and help us reflect on an extraordinary time. It should take no longer than 10 minutes to complete.

Meetings this week

UK Transition Board, raising what needs to be in place as we leave the EU

The Board met this week where we discussed some of the most pressing issues as we transition out of the EU.

Settlement: If you have any EU nationals in your area, they need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme with the right paperwork, as there will be little flexibility on the deadline June 30 2021.

Care Workers: We are seeking for care workers to be included in the Health and care visa, to ensure we have sufficient staff. 

Traffic management: Concerns at ports like Teeside are to be mitigated with arrangements for pre-registering, waiting areas and fewer checks on "lower risk" cargoes.

The UK Prosperity fund: EU funds being replaced are likely to be allocated differently, more according to the current government priorities. We continue to reiterate that we do not want to simply swap Brussels for Whitehall and money should come to councils to allocate, not LEPs.

LGA Board

Board  members met to discuss the key business for the organisation, this included our business plan, the local government mutual and the ongoing reopening of our offices in London.

Saving Councils Money on Insurance: We have set up a new mutual, to enable reliable insurance for our members at favourable rates. Please check when your renewal date is and let us know, so we can send a quote at the right time. Further communications will be coming out to key officers and lead members, if you are interested please do get in touch.  

Voting at the AGM: Our General Assembly is taking place virtually on the 30 September and requires 1/3 of our councils to vote to be quorate. Please do vote and if your Democratic Services team are unsure how, Sarah can help.

Executive Advisory Board

The LGA's Executive also met this week where we debate the big policy issues and outputs of the organisation. Despite this being our first meeting after the summer the agenda was full, with finances, covid-19 and the code of conduct all being discussed.

The government is recalculating from scratch the amount of money it gives us in a Comprehensive Spending Review – the first in 12 years and the first multi-year budget in 5 years  We are working hard to get everything in, key messages designed and professionals are checking the figures. We are working flat out to make a really strong case for local government and will be relaunching our #CouncilsCan campaign shortly.

Independent Group Councillors Briefing

We welcomed our Board members to the new term at the LGA with a cross-party meeting where I thanked our members for their contributions and flagged the challenges ahead. Cllr Julie Fallon, our lead member on the Children and Young People's Board also spoke about the work of her board in response to covid-19. Cllr Ian Stephens as Chair of the Fire Services Management Committee, spoke about all of the work of his Committee, particularly fire service changes post-Grenfell.

Lively discussions revolved around our priorities for the year ahead, including our response to planning, devolution, reorganisation, ongoing recovery and the climate emergency. Cllr Julian German outlined about the value of you joining one of our think tanks and how the Culture and fire groups have gone beyond email groups to meet over zoom. Do sign up to the think thanks that are of interest and get involved, your contributions directly inform the work of the LGA with government.  

Our success is in working together with many contributions to create evidenced solutions. We have a great team in place to face the challenges ahead.

Peers Wanted – Chairman and CYP Leads

LGA Peers are experienced councillors accredited to assist others. Our Peer support is absolutely vital and with increasing leadership of councils, requests come into the office for mentoring which needs the right people with the right experience. We are always looking to grow our peer pool but specifically we currently need those who have been chairman of their council or held the children’s portfolio. If interested, please contact Noleen Rosen in the group office. Our National Lead Peer, Cllr Mike Haines, would also be happy to talk to you about the role.

Green recovery

The new Defra Green Recovery Challenge Fund is expected to open next week. This is a £40 million fund and grants will be available from £50,000 up to £5 million. The fund will be open to environmental charities and partnerships to support projects that focus on nature restoration, nature-based solutions and/or connecting people with nature. Councils can lead a partnership and receive grant funding. Priority will be given to projects that are already fully planned and ready to start delivery this financial year, and they will need to complete by March 2022. Details will be circulated once we have them including how to submit applications.

As I write the World Wildlife Fund announced that in our life-time, in less than forty years, we have overseen the destruction of two-thirds of the world’s wildlife (Living Planet Report 2020). With fires raging in North America as we speak, ice melting faster than envisaged and increasingly extreme weather events, it makes me wonder how many warning shots do we need? The environment needs some help and we are well placed to do something useful here.

The LGA recently published a series of policy briefs on decarbonisation of transport with practical actions, designed jointly with experts from the University of Leeds.  I hope you find them useful as the country works towards its net zero goal. The papers cover seven themes and for each there is also a webinar to allow member councils to explore the subject in detail and with experts, details below:

Dates for your diary

Our group event schedule for Autumn is filling up, please RSVP to the group office unless there is a specific link:

  • LGA Building resilience: an event for Councillors with Cllr Gillian Ford speaking (Ind, Havering) – 17 September 2020,
  • LGA Independent Group Planning workshop – 18 September 2020, 12pm – 2pm
  • LGA climate events on scrutiny – 18 September 2020
  • LGA Independent Group Regional meetings with the first taking place on the 22nd September for members in the North West and West Midlands
  • HOLD THE DATE - Independent Group Conference – 6 November, 10am – 12.30pm, further details to follow next week.

Thanks very much for all your excellent work as an elected councillor. I look forward to seeing you soon online or otherwise!

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