Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 22 January 2021

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

22 January 2021


Dear colleagues,

As Storm Christoph hit the UK with high winds and floods, our thoughts are with those struggling to keep everyone safe, adding to the difficulties of tackling COVID.

At this morning’s expert group responding to the EU proposed legislation on tackling climate change, the Finnish representative pointed to the poignancy of discussing actions amidst a raging storm and temperatures of -40degrees Centigrade. It helps to drive our resolve.

At the LGA, we agreed to take part in the COP26 event hosted in the UK for the first time. The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be in Glasgow on 1-12 November 2021. Let me know what good ideas you have to showcase.

The Environment Bill is back in the House of Commons next week, having been delayed due to COVID-19. We continue to call for less packaging and less waste and now have a commitment from retailers to fund recycling and disposing of packaging in the “polluter pays” principle. Enterprising retailers are creating shops with no plastic. We are raising the need to enhance biodiversity and the environment - including through the planning process.

We fought against the centralisation of decision-making in the planning white paper, and it will need further work as it is rumbling on. It is hard not to see the “right to regeneration” as an attack on council assets, as they may have to divest those that the government considers to be not well used.

We continue to encourage a green economic recovery. The planning bill centralises much of the strategic decision-making, putting at risk local decisions made, for example, against airport extensions that cannot maintain a decent air quality. We have raised the risk that the government might undermine its own bill with its planning reforms and infrastructure plans. It is still unclear what impact new planning arrangements will have on biodiversity net gain and the true environmental impact of large scale projects, such as extensive housing, HS2 and airport plans.

COVID, Finance and NHS Reorganisation

COVID, finances and the NHS were discussed on the LGA Board, Executive and Councillor’s Forum this week, with the Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick.

We asked for secure long-term funding for care, but instead we now have NHS reorganisation in the creation of new larger bodies: Integrated Care Systems with appointed Chairs, replacing the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG’s).

The Health and Wellbeing Boards were created to increase the democratic accountability and local focus of health and care services, as well as engaging the health determinants that are the responsibility of councils (such as housing, public health and employment). These joint boards could be strengthened, rather than creating a new, less locally focused set of bureaucracy. There is an excellent paper on this from the LGA.

Culture, Sport and Tourism

Thanks to the Think Tank and the members of the Culture, Tourism and Sport Board who met this week. Our members pushed for much needed funding and support for services that have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Council Leaders and Independent Group Executive

Our Group Executive and Leaders also met this week to pick priority areas for action. Thanks to Cllr Claire Wright, our Deputy Chair of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board for her presentation on key issues - including the NHS reorganisation.

Together, our leading members are seeking a positive response from government about the lack of clarity regarding the local elections, and agreed we must push the government to bring forward the legislation needed to ensure we have the ability to meet remotely after May, which I raised with Robert Jenrick in the Councillor’s Forum.

Thank You

Thank you for all that you are doing and please keep us engaged. We are looking for good case studies in developing good communities, healthy environments and the best possible economies. Please join a think tank if you are not already part of one!

We are also focussing on the forthcoming elections, currently expected on May 6th. There are a number of Be a Councillor events being organised, so please bring yourselves and colleagues along. You can also hold your own – a successful event was held last weekend in Surrey,  tomorrow I am holding one in Lincolnshire at 11am and further events are being arranged across the country. Get in touch with the office if you’d like to host one.

Please keep in touch.

Kind regards,

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.