Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 16 October 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

16 October 2020


Morning Colleagues!

The good news first today!

The government announced a further Billion pounds this week to help our Councils tackle Covid 19. For areas in the most locked-down areas an extra half billion is now winging into your council coffers.

The bad news?

It’s not enough and we at the LGA continue to work on that using every tool in the box.

The other bad news is the rising number of daily infections, despite measures being in place.  Thanks to Council Leaders and Mayors in our group whose fortnightly meeting provides focus to the work of our group and the LGA in helping Councils tackle covid.  We asked for better engagement from Government with our Council Leaders who know their patch and to enable a unified, more effective approach to encouraging public compliance. This has been now been agreed. Both the LGA and Council Leaders are being consulted and Council Leaders now have some flexibility to strengthen the rules where appropriate, thus being more in line with advice from the government advisory body, SAGE. Shutting schools and businesses remains a national prerogative, however. Hence keeping children at home two weeks over half term.

Aiming to create a simpler message in asking for compliance, the PM announced on Monday that the country is now divided into three tiers of  lockdown; medium, high and very high. Exactly what extra measures are required in your area is here.  We pointed out that tier two means closing facilities without any extra government funding, which is hard to enforce.

We now know that London, Essex, Elmbridge in Surrey, Barrow in Furness in Cumbria, York, North East Derbyshire, Chesterfield and Erewash in Derbyshire will be entering tier two on Saturday. Guidance has been published and Independent members are being supported by our peers. Discussions are ongoing in the North West. The full list of covid alerts by area is a useful document.

Remembrance Day

As we enter the winter months a number of events would usually be taking place, from Halloween to Christmas markets. Following queries into the office, the government has published new information for councils in England on how to ensure those hosting local Remembrance events can do so safely.  Guidance states ahead of any public events, to be cautious as local lockdown arrangements are changing regularly.

Government Reorganisation

Our group has held a number of meetings to discuss the impact of government reorganisation and produced an LGA Independent Group  position paper. We offer to facilitate meetings for members for you.

The former front-runner Council areas, including Surrey and Lincolnshire, have dropped back in the face of tough opposition from Independent and even Conservative councillors, seeing it as a distraction at a time when resources are needed for response and recovery. The original unitary size guideline has faded. We also see this re-organisation as a loss of local democratic influence in areas where national party control would wipe out more diverse leadership in the more local councils. Independent Group Members are working hard to build viable and successful challenges to county-led approaches to government re-organisation in N.Yorkshire, where KPMG have been drafted in to help, and in Surrey where a residents group has been established to campaign against a single unitary.  

Reorganisation announcements at the end of last week invited reorganisation bids from Cumbria, North Yorkshire and Somerset, suddenly including Richmondshire, led by Independent Cllr Angie Dale and North Somerset where we have an Independent Leader in Cllr Don Davies. Many other members will also be involved and we’re here to help facilitate discussions and provide peer support where we can.

Planning White Paper

Last Chance to respond by October 29th.

Regional meetings this week included Our South East and London region, chaired by Cllr Phelim MacCafferty, Leader of Brighton and Hove. Members echoed considerable concern about the White Paper with serious risks of looking like a developer’s charter and the consequent loss of local democratic influence over determining planning applications. Please have a look and send in your individual or a group and Council response.  the consultation is open until the 29th October. Do share yours if its complete early. We are adding these to our resources page, where you can already find the Lambeth Green Group’s response.

Work on Policy and funding at the LGA

Thank you to our members of the Community Wellbeing Board, Innovation and Improvement Board, DCN Executive, Fire Services Management Committee and EU Transition Taskforce, who met this week. If you want to contribute to these boards do consider joining our think tanks. They have some very useful discussions, helping our board representatives to do the best possible job.

On the EU Transition Board, we have long discussed what Councils need to manage international goods traffic after December 31st:  The government has responded by updating the Border Operation Model to include potential inland ports. Thus vehicles must pre-register, drive straight through the ports and register their “arrival in Britain” at an inland centre. The press release the Government issued  is here. The updated Border Operating Model is here (page 8 outlines all changes to the Border Operating Model and pages 24-25 outlines what infrastructure is needed including the inland ports).

Got an idea for £20,000 for a Connectivity Project?

New LGA Digital Connectivity Applications Now Open - Councils are invited to apply for funding for projects to develop capacity and understanding to improve local and regional connectivity. Successful councils will receive £20,000 to better meet the needs of their residents, improve productivity and their livelihoods through connectivity innovation. You can apply for the Digital Connectivity programme here.

Free Commercial skills for councillors masterclasses 

The LGA has developed two new masterclasses to support councillors as their local authorities refocus commercial activity that has been impacted by COVID-19 and changes to investment guidance by CIPFA and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. To find out more visit the Commercial skills for councillors web page.

Signed up to our AGM yet?   

We will be meeting from 10am – 12.30pm on the 6 November via zoom, with a social event planned to start at 6pm. Please RSVP on the website and I look forward to seeing you there.

I hope you find this bulletin helpful. Thank you for your continued support of the LGA, our Councils and residents. The LGA resources on personal resilience are pretty good and it’s great to keep in touch with friends and family by whatever means we can. I know some are bearing worry and sadness where even a conversation with a supportive friend or colleague can help. Thank you for all that you do.

I look forward to seeing you soon and I am sure we will have an excellent Annual conference. Please join us.


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