Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 15 January 2021

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

15 January 2021


Dear Colleagues,

I hope you and yours are keeping well.

Despite reports that lockdown arrangements were gong to be tightened, the advice of space, face coverings and washing hands are still our best defence as well as staying home unless you have to go out to work, to shop and to exercise.

The LGA have updated our online resources to include top tips for council leaders, where Independent Mayor of Middlesbrough Andy Preston shares his experience of getting businesses engaged in supporting disadvantaged children in their IT.

COVID compliance and vaccinations

This week, we had an LGA meeting with Robert Jenrick and later in the week, the webinar for council leaders. The main COVID concern is rising hospital admissions and sadly, deaths.

We pressed on vaccination roll-out and sharing this data with our Public Health to better organise testing and safety, in care homes for examples. We are informed that the vaccination plan is scheduled to have all over 80’s, clinically vulnerable and front line workers vaccinated by mid-February. The Welsh strategy has also been published aiming to prioritise care home residents and staff, frontline health and care workers and everyone over 70 by mid-February. There is a ready reckoner so you can watch the numbers rise – for a therapeutic few seconds - just under £3m as I write. The third vaccine from Moderna is now approved.

Funded correctly, our councils stand ready and willing to assist. A key role for us is to encourage sensible compliance to reduce the spread of COVID.

In businesses our councils have a greater role with planned or spot checks. I expect - like my council - you are also using some of the COVID Marshall funds to employ “COVID safety ambassadors”, as not all of the work needs to involve fixed penalties. Using the grants to keep homeless people homed, remains important and some councils are currently able to purchase new housing at an advantageous rate. Our council is also now looking at building housing for vulnerable adults and older people.


There is increasing take-up of the NHS COVID volunteers. Are you, like Lincolnshire, one of twelve areas to do a rapid bid for a grant to assist mental health? It might be something you might be doing already or want to consider. There is a 24 hour support line and support workers; “real people” who will meet to walk, person to person.


Thank you to all who sent in their thoughts on a possible local election delay. Our group has mixed views on the issue and so did the LGA as a whole. We did agree that we needed early certainty, for recovery of costs if it is delayed, for a delay that is not late into October, but earlier in July, for example. I also asked for a standardised system for letting the communities have leaflets from us, such as a booklet with a leaflet from each candidate as a minimum, like the London Mayoral Elections. Solace, representing Chief Executives - has asked for a delay, with some councils saying they cannot do the job in time. We jointly previously recommended allowing Neighbourhood Plan referenda etc to go on a separate date - to allow the counts to occur separately, over Friday and Monday for example. We still await confirmation from the government. The Cabinet Office’s line is that elections remain on 6 May but Ministers have indicated a delay is likely. Our Group continue to support members to be ready for whenever elections are called and I would encourage you to hold your own Be A Cllr event.

Board meetings

Our Lead Members have also been busy with the LGA Boards meeting this week. Our District Council Network Members have had multiple meetings this week, including one with Robert Jenrick.

Our Children and Young People Board met to discuss the impact of COVID on early years, young people and future challenges faced by our young people. People and Places met and a hot topic was the lack of ambition by the government to really improve rural broadband and digital connectivity – something England could learn from Wales on as the Welsh Government announced this week £4.9m to make digital public services better. A meeting of the think tank will be in the diary soon to discuss rural issues more widely. Our Resources Board members met to discuss the key financial challenges facing our councils now and ongoing. Finally, the Safer and Stronger Communities Board also met discussing - amongst other things - gambling, resilience and the important role councillors have in relating facts amidst all of the conspiracies and scams. There is also a request to complete the public survey and consultation on Tackling Violence Against Women and Girls, open until 19 February.

Make Votes Matter

Many of our members believe that more voices should count in the decision-making corridors. Having top-up seats to ensure the number of members elected is the same proportion as the number of votes cast to that group is a way of achieving that, in place of a 100% winner-takes-all like we have now. Make Votes Matter, the campaign for Proportional Representation in the House of Commons, is launching a cross-party Councillors Network, to join up councillors across the country who want to campaign for PR at a local level. Please sign up here to find out the details and to be invited to planning meetings and other actions.

Next Generation module

We have our second weekend session this Friday/Saturday with our cohort looking at how to get their points across effectively, with the added zest of it being virtual!

With this lockdown, we are getting better than ever at online campaigning on issues, and members have been telling me that they find the online digital training very helpful.

Wishing you and yours all the very best,

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

Dates for your diary

Be a Councillor – Our next Be a Councillor event is a LGA webinar with the electoral commission on 26 January at 2pm. This will be a good opportunity for current and prospective councillors standing this year to ask questions and find out more about EC rules. To attend book your place on this website.

Dealing with hostility and challenge – Our next member workshop is on 26 February at 11am and will be an interactive session on how best to deal with hostility and challenge. Places are limited so please do email the group office as soon as you can to secure your place.

Digital Training - This LGA councillor training series on digital and political leadership will take place from 20 Jan 2021 into March 2021 with six sessions that may be of interest for you or colleagues at your council. Please see here an overview of the sessions with links to the registration pages, as well as with dates and times.

The first workshop is focused on digital inclusion and connectivity which is something that has been increasingly important for the local government sector to develop in order to support residents. The session is 10am on Wednesday 20 Jan with speakers confirmed from Stockport Council, Wolverhampton Council, DCMS and Good Things Foundation. Find more details on the workshop here.