Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 8 January 2021

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

8 January 2021


Greetings! Wishing you all the very best of health, happiness and success through 2021.

Starting the year with a bump!

With four national meetings here at the LGA in early January, we can see we have a lot on our plate this year. We have gone straight into tackling the end of the transition from leaving the EU and into the national lockdown. The latter, a reaction to the Christmas lifting of regulations, a new strain of the virus and the subsequent increase in new infections of over 50,000 a day for four days in a row with hospitals overflowing. It is hard to see that there is a plan for dealing with the virus and problems continue to come as a surprise. To be as well-equipped as possible you might like to get your COVID volunteers together for briefings with your public health director or similar, to ensure everyone is working from the same, up-to-date information.

The new national lockdown guidance is regularly being updated – essential for our residents given the fraudulent information also circulating.

Grants to support our local economies

Compensation accompanying the closure or damage to businesses is £4.6 billion in this round of funding “until the Spring”. The Lockdown is currently planned to mid-February, if everything goes well. Grants based on business rate registration are mandatory and councils are asked to pass this on directly. In that sum, the discretionary grant is also increased and your local businesses should be encouraged to apply in order to apply to help them survive and protect jobs.

Funds for our Councils

The settlement of central funds for local government was announced and our councils are expected to respond now. The LGA had an excellent LGA session on council funds this week. Chairman James Jamieson pointed out the value of councils and why it is so important to fund them, echoed by the Minister for Local Government (MHCLG), Robert Jenrick MP, thanking all our members for their excellent work. Previously, councils objected to austerity dropping our income from government by 60 per cent, and were encouraged to make their own funds in commercialisation. There is now a clear change in attitude, as the economy is in freefall, and councils are more at risk from losing on these investments. The Minister singled out hotels and energy companies as examples to be avoided. The next LGA finance session is on January 12, so please book.

Making ends meet

Our group held an excellent session on Council Budgets, looking at making savings or using reserves, and increasing income. The government has made sure that no council will have less than before, but that is assuming we raise our council tax by the maximum amount of 2 per cent plus 3 per cent for adult care, over one or two years. Huge thanks to Cllrs Gillian Ford and Phelim Mac Cafferty (Leader of Brighton and Hove, a unitary Council) for sharing their skills; presentations will be available on our website shortly.


Currently elections are scheduled for the 6th May. Members need to be prepared to campaign differently, starting now with positive social media messaging and e-mails. Leaflets are going out in a obviously COVID-safe manner sharing COVID-help information to residents.  Please share your examples, which we are putting online.

We are holding a number of Be a Councillor sessions over the coming weeks and encourage you to hold your own – do let the office know if you have anything planned as we’re able to help.

Our Council Leaders and Group Executive have met to discuss elections and whether they should go ahead given the challenges to staffing, canvassing but also existing vacancies. Do you think the elections should go ahead in May as planned? Do let us know.

Huge thanks for your work. It is really important to keep in touch with each other in our groups, in our councils with staff and in our communities.

Yours sincerely,

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