Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 5 February 2021

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

5 February 2021


Dear colleagues,

Awareness week

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week, and members within our group have been discussing the importance of support for our young people in schools and colleagues as part of the nation’s recovery from the pandemic.

Today is World Cancer Day and a new Cllr Cancer Champion Network by Cancer Research UK has been set up to help reduce health inequalities. If you are interested in joining the network you can do so on their website.

Yesterday was Time To Talk Day and despite not being able to see people in person, I know members continue to facilitate the essential conversations that help to end mental health stigma. Remember we have resources for members on looking after your own mental health.

Finally, February is LGBT+ History Month and thank you to our members who have shared their experiences or good practice within their authorities. Look out for the next edition of first magazine which will include contributions from several of our members.


The Government has today announced elections are definitely going ahead on May 6th. During the current lockdown, we are not allowed to deliver leaflets or door knock. We are calling for this ban to be lifted, and certainly by March 26th, the start of the election period. On your behalf, I have made representations both directly and in writing to the ministers, on the timing of the elections, logistical safety and how the lack of ability to leaflet or door-knock seriously undermines democracy. We want elections and we want the chance to hear what our residents say and discuss solutions. Do feel free to use the basis of my statement (linked above) to put your own out.

In the meantime, we are all rethinking our campaigns. Post using bulk mail may well be worthwhile. Certainly many are using much more online direct mailings, social media, and phone calls.  Articles in media and magazines and adverts are useful and we hope to be able to have COVID-safe leaflet delivery from April.

Our LGA Independent Group is running a Candidate School for Prospective Candidates, which is already proving very popular.

The Independent Network, Association of Green Councillors, Plaid Cymru members and local groups are also running sessions – do get in touch with the office if you would like to hold your own Be a Councillor meeting. I am holding an Independent Network meeting tomorrow (Saturday 6th).


Nominations are now open until the 6th April; if anyone wants the forms, pleas contact the office. Our factsheet on how best to complete the forms is here.

Group Climate Conference

Hold the date for our annual climate conference; it will be on the 23rd March 2021 from 10am – 2pm.

LGA meetings this week

Thanks to all of you who have contacted me or the office in response to calls for examples of good practice, comments and useful points to raise with the government.

Our Independent Council Leaders met this week and raised concern over high numbers of hospitalised cases of COVID and delays in getting the test results back in time, 1/5 refusing the vaccination and mental health - especially increasing amongst children. Across England and Wales, our members are calling for extra resources for children to catch up academically, physically and emotionally. Also raised was the call to consider the cladding on buildings in the same way as other faulty goods are recalled, at the expense of the supplier.

Cross-party leading Councillors from across the country also met to discuss exiting the lockdown and the return of schools in full. I called for vaccinations of teachers, for whom we have a particular duty of care. Other front-line workers at risk include taxi-drivers who also carry children to school in our rural areas, early years workers, police, some of our council workers going into people’s homes and shop workers.

It seems the tiers were not effective in reducing the spread as people moved and only a blanket lockdown works, with councils able to ensure more localised lockdowns on particular premises. Schools are due to start fully reopening from March 8th.

We have asked for and got an increase in the discretionary budgets for supporting businesses which you may see coming through your council annual budgets this month.

Thanks to all who attended and contributed to the excellent think tank discussion on culture, sport and tourism, chaired by Julian German, Leader of Cornwall Council. Contrary to the government’s promise to do “whatever it takes”, councils have not been fully refunded for lost income due to government-imposed restrictions. This has hit theatres, leisure centres and car parks. The extra £100m for leisure centres that are outsourced has yet to materialise. The possibility of councils holding bus franchises has been a useful tool to encourage better public transport to get to our leisure facilities when they do open.

Good luck everyone, please keep in touch. I look forward to seeing those who can make it on Saturday 11am.

Warm 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