Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 4 December 2020

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

4 December 2020


Dear friends and colleagues,

I hope you are OK and keeping well. Perhaps, like me, you are finding morning walks are really important, rain or shine!

I attended and spoke at a very good conference yesterday looking at how to support wellbeing in your council and amongst colleagues. PoliticsHome ran a session about Women in Local Government where I was shared the opening platform with Dame Margaret Hodge!

There were lots of useful tips and some one-liner advice, thanks to colleagues who kindly sent them to me to quote. Under wellbeing, we noted the importance of self-care before you can help others, training mental health first-aiders in your council and community, lunchtime chats, networks and access to professional advice such as through the council’s wellbeing contract, which not all offer.

We must be losing talent still as women and minority group councillors are still under-represented in councils and in positions of leadership. Please encourage people you know who are at the heart of your communities to support or stand and join our group members doing a great job for our communities.  Our Be a Councillor work provides a number of tools that can help candidates planning to stand next May, we also have a session next Thursday for prospective councillors, so do share the details with your networks.


I spoke at the launch of the LGA’s Digital Citizenship work as part of our commitment to improve civility in public life. There are two more webinars on this subject in December; the misuse of social media to intimidate and bully others is something that affects us all so do attend if you can.

If you have any good examples of a social media policy or experience with social media you’d like to share please do let the office know.


We asked for a more granular approach, but you will have noticed the new county-wide tiers have gone live, putting 93% of the population in tier 2 or 3, tightening our grip prior to a release at Christmas. Guidance for Christmas was published and student testing before they go home has begun. Mass testing and isolating is going ahead. Staff and bank staff in hospitals near me are testing twice weekly.

The new vaccine was approved this week, and it’s the first in the world. Councils have offered to assist in the provision of premises and encouragement to ensure the vaccine is distributed, and some have offered staff for training. To get 70% of the population vaccinated with two injections three weeks apart is no mean feat. Several out-of-town vaccine sites have been identified including Bristol, Epsom and Leicester racecourses.

The Oxford team seem to be close to approval too, in a laboratory led by two women, Catherine Green and Sarah Gilbert, working with Astra Zeneca. (I remember the days of Government research labs!)

LGA Board meetings

The annual impact report from Local Partnerships, part-owned by the LGA,  who work for Councils on service areas, makes very interesting reading and ideas about how you might get them helping your council. Local Partnerships is chaired by one of our group members, Sir David Wootton with member Tony Saffell representing us on their board. 

Our LGA Board and Executive Advisory Board both met this week. It is astounding just how much the LGA is doing to assist Councils through COVID and looking longer term. There is a neat summary of LGA’s support for councils on page 12 linked to COVID.

After a huge amount of discussion and work by our members, the model Code of Conduct is looking OK and been passed by the board. The key point will be how we use it! There are normally two sides to a contract and if members sign this one, then they must be able to expect a fair process - should a complaint be received.  Colleagues and I are working up a set of guidelines with the officers of what councillors can expect from their council ensuring there is a sound process which builds confidence from members and the public. 

Elections in May

The Electoral Commission have now published Nominations Guidance for the May 2021 elections. Please see the summary below of the main points of the guidance for your information:

The guidance mainly says that the nomination process should go ahead as usual, but with a few subtle changes to process and some extra mitigations to COVID-transmission in place, including:

  • any physical interactions should follow social distancing, hand hygiene and PPE guidance
  • virtual briefings for candidates where possible, recorded briefings so they are available at the candidates convenience
  • digital nomination packs rather than physical packs where possible; if not possible a process to limit contacts and encourage candidates to contact the election office directly so that the most appropriate method of access can be determined; have a back-up venue if offices have to close
  • informal checks of documents to be conducted remotely by scanning and emailing forms and giving feedback by email, phone or video call – this would require the facility to send and receive emails securely as they hold personal info. If not possible implement an appointment system to minimise contact between individuals and queues.
  • nomination papers still have to be delivered in person; councils may need to have a back-up venue in case offices close or become inappropriate, and this should be published on the election notice. Councils may wish to implement an appointment system, although if candidates come outside of their allotted time, officers cannot refuse to take their papers, place physical markers for queues, and possibly extend opening hours to spread out appointments. Again this must be detailed in the election notice.
  • councils may need to increase the no. of Deputy Ros to add resilience to the process.
  • deposits should be paid electronically where possible, although officers cannot refuse payment in cash.

The requirement for some original forms to be delivered in person has not been changed and 10 wet signatures are still required to complete the nomination.

Work continues with the Cabinet Office to get further guidance for our members and councils on how we can best run safe and fair elections next elections next year and rules around campaigning in different tiers.

LGA Independent Group Christmas Social - tonight

A final reminder that we have our Christmas Quiz Night this evening, starting at 6pm. Zoom details are below. Join Zoom Meeting |

Meeting ID: 814 6261 8894 | Passcode: 024425

I hope to see you there!

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


Remember to visit the LGA Events website for details of forthcoming webinars, including sessions on:

10 December 2020Decarbonisation of Transport – Growing Cycle Use

16 December 2020Tackling Diversity and Sharing Good practice

18 December 2020Communicating diverse communities

7 January 2021Rethinking local government finance – for relevant portfolio holders and scrutiny chairs.