Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 12 October 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

12 October 2020


Dear all,

Coronavirus cases continue to rise, significantly in some areas, despite efforts. A high level LGA meeting with the Minister for Health, Matt Hancock, was very helpful last week.

Councils are in the front line and both Middlesbrough and Hartlepool, led by Independent members, were unfortunately given sudden restrictions with barely any notice. Engagement with community leaders is vital to get agreed restrictions and reinforce clear messages to gain public support and compliance. Announced at the end of last week is the addition of more funding for lockdown areas.

The Conservative Party had their party conference last week. The PM’s catchphrase to 'Build back better' being a response to the pandemic and the chronic problems were identified before COVID-19; rephrased as a skills deficit, poor transport infrastructure, some unable to afford houses and people being ‘ignored and left out’. The PM’s solution is a 'great health service', more police, more for schools and higher education, more offshore wind turbines, more road and rail upgrades and more dwellings, focusing on the private sector.

On climate change, better assessment of the impact of decisions is needed. For example, 300,000 new dwellings every year. To achieve this at the same time as reaching for net zero by 2050, does not add up. We can’t do both.

City Area Targets and Trajectories for Emissions Reduction allows you to calculate emissions for your area, taking into account various actions, showing how we are falling short.

More than ever central government is looking to local government to deliver much of what’s needed, most recently by giving district and unitary authorities their share of a £30 million grant for compliance and enforcement activities. The police are also getting £30 million. You can see the allocation for your council, which vary greatly – details of the formula can be found on the Government’s website. The Government’s preference is that this money is used for marshals, something not all of our leaders think is a good idea, who would 'engage, explain and encourage best practice and national COVID-19 secure guidance'.  

Group meetings

Last week Simon Bell of Knights Solicitors led a member workshop on electoral legislation. We also had our regional meeting for members in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber. We discussed planning, devolution and election readiness. I am concerned to hear how the standards process in councils can seem to be very heavy-handed in some cases, and very light in others. It gave us all a lot to think about.

View the slides from the member workshop.


Many of our members are working hard on reorganisation plans locally – both setting out what they’d like to see and challenging plans that threaten to enforce large, county-led unitaries.

Our representatives on the District Councils Network (DCN), Cllrs Jason Zadrozny, Sarah Rouse and Angie Dale, are doing a great job for us on the DCN Board, pushing the Conservative leadership off the fence to properly support our district members despite the Government’s preferences.

Until now the County Councils Network (CCN) Executive had eluded us, due to their outdated constitution which did not fully recognise our Independent members, despite us now leading two CCN member councils - Cornwall and Herefordshire. That has now been rectified through lobbying by group members, meaning Cllr Julian German is now a Vice Chair on the CCN Executive – matching the other political groups. Julian has been the CCN rural spokesman for the last year, but this extended role will mean we are formally at the top table continuing to push back on the CCN Chair’s county-led approach to reorganisation, unless members agree this is the best way forward for their region. Julian is supported by Cllr David Hitchiner and other Independent Group Members from Durham, Cheshire East, Cornwall, Suffolk, Northumberland, Herefordshire, Surrey and Devon.  

Call for good practice

As you will know, October is Black History Month. In last week’s bulletin we put a call out for BAME councillors who are willing to work with us to ensure our Be a Councillor campaign reaches as much of the public as possible to try and increase diversity of those standing for election and ultimately being elected.

We are also keen to hear from you on any anti-racism initiatives you have implemented in your councils and communities, possibly in response to recent Black Lives Matter activity. The LGA is gathering good practice so please do share what you are doing with Sarah in the office.

Group Conference

Our Group Conference will soon be here, taking place on 6 November 2020. Our website is now live allowing you to book your place. We will be holding a morning session from 10.00am to 12.30pm, including our formal AGM, prize giving, a panel of our council leaders and hearing from Professor Colin Copus as he launches a report on the impact of reorganisation in Independents. In the evening we will be gathering at 6.00pm for our Speaker’s Corner and social event. This is always a really good event and I look forward to seeing you online.

Wishing you all a good week.


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