Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 2 October 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

2 October 2020


Dear Colleagues,

I hope you and yours are well.

Independent Group Members Meet in Wales

Thanks to Welsh Independent and Plaid Cymru members who contributed to the online meetings held this week for Wales. Chaired by Cllr Colin Mann with Daniel Durford of the WLGA and I giving outlines on our joint work, members discussed what Welsh councils need in tackling finance, covid response and recovery and preparing for elections. Notes will be available from the office.

Covid Lockdowns

Lockdown now encompasses a quarter of people in England and of ¾ of people in Wales, 16.8m people.  Lockdown worked in April, reducing the spread of Covid and it seems we have to do that again in areas where the infection is spreading fastest, and incidence of those with positive tests is over 40/100 000 people, or 0.04% of the population. We have raised with ministers the problem of the national test and trace contracts being less efficient than local, the difficulty in accessing tests through a national number, and sending people long distances, even into locked areas for a test.

In response to significant levels of non-compliance in England, the law changed this week so that breaking the restrictions also breaks the law, with significant fines up to £6,400, though the Police are already under pressure. Particularly as it is unclear what the rules are for travelling to, from and through lockdown areas, e.g. for holidays, going to the pub or for a test. We have also raised the issue of the 10pm curfew, causing bunching on public transport and anti-social behaviour, especially near the supermarkets selling alcohol, the very reason the 11pm closing was abandoned in the first place.

People with a positive test or in touch with someone with a positive test must now self-isolate and inform their employer. Councils will be handing each employee £500 “test and trace Support Payment” if they have lost income due to a covid instruction and are on income-related benefits. This is backdated to September 28th. We have discussed the challenges of making sure they are at home and the consequent risk to Council reputation.

The new legal duty is explained on the government website and usefully reported by the BBC.

The weekly surveillance reports by Council area are another useful resource.

Even aside from Covid and leaving the EU, the Government is at the same time pushing two very unpopular policies; centralising local powers into fewer hands through government re-organisation and taking more centralised power over planning. Our members are busy and successfully fighting against these plans in their local areas. Do keep us informed of what this means for you and any campaigns you are leading.


Thank you to so many of you who took the trouble to engage in responding to the planning white paper on the numbers of dwellings your Council is expected to provide. The LGA response is in and the next response to the white paper as a whole is due by October 29th.

We also responded to Robert Jenrick’s announcement that new homes delivered under permitted development rights will have to meet space standards. We see excessive national pressure to build taking power from councils, so developers can achieve what they need, but offer little to a local area, fail to meet adequate design standards and often create worse quality residential environments.

We’re therefore making it clear to government that councils and residents have a strong voice in the planning process. Your views on the current white paper are welcome now and being discussed at our regional meetings, including the South West meeting earlier today.

You might find the Planning Advisory Service Events helpful to attend.

Adult Social Care Announcement

Due to its success in limiting the transmission of COVID-19 within and between care settings, the Adult Social Care Infection Control Fund has been extended until March 2021, with an extra £546 million of funding on top of the £600m already used. Councils will give 80% on a per bed basis of all homes and 20% is discretionary, specifically to tackle the risk of infections.


Be a Councillor BAME network

As we know diversity within our councils is not what it could be, which is why our current Be a Councillor work has a specific focus on women, members of BAME communities, parents, carers and young people. To support this work we are looking to create a BAME network to help encourage and support more BAME members of the public to stand for election. If you would like to be involved with this work please contact the office by emailing

Call for good practice – reopening councils

Have you reopened your council building safely, to allow residents to come in with their queries? Members are raising the issue that residents are calling them with generic queries because they can’t get through to council officers, and also an increase in online communication – so we’re pulling some examples together to share with others. If you have any good practice do let the office know.

Centre for Governance and Scrutiny

The “Centre for Public Scrutiny” has changed it’s name to better reflect their work, rather than to signal a change in direction. Their core work remains focused on local authority scrutiny, but in addition, they work on corporate governance. You can find out more about their work with local government on their website.


Electoral legislation workshop:

Next Tuesday (6 October, 11am) we have a seminar with Simon at Knights Solicitors on the legislation governing elections. As you might recall, there were a number of issues following the 2019 elections, so this is our chance to hear from an expert. Register to attend by emailing

Events with NALC

I know some of you are also councillors on parish or town councils, you might be interested in the Rebuilding Communities series of online events from our colleagues at the National Association of Local Councils. More details including how to book are at

Event invitation: members are invited to share their views on shaping the future of our Sector-led improvement offer

Our webinar event, Shaping the future of Sector-led improvement offer, will provide a starting point for these conversations and is scheduled to take place on Monday, 12 October, 11.30am-1.00pm. 

Many thanks for your continued hard work. It has been a hard six months and we are embarking on the next. Please let me know if our team can help with anything.



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