Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 26 February 2021

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

26 February 2021


Dear Colleagues,

The light at the end of this tunnel is now in sight, with the government’s roadmap out of lockdown, following the most command and control government we have had since the war. Pulling that round back to local government, led by local councillors who are independent of the Central Government is going to be an important challenge. The daily deluge of Conservative Instructions and Labour Party politicians on TV encourages people to think and vote on party lines. We need them to think about who will best represent them locally. 

We win by being well connected and part of our local communities, who understand and champion the issues that our residents care about. The value of local representation and local services is the groundswell where we can all contribute every day.


As you will have seen, the government’s new roadmap did refer (in paragraph 95) to new campaign guidance coming. Despite referencing the Parliamentary Parties Panel we have been contributing to that guidance and hopefully it will enable the doorstep campaigning we have been calling for. We have also enlisted legal support to challenge the lack of inclusion of Independents and smaller parties in the government’s approach to election planning.

Thank you to members for their ongoing contributions, there’s still time to inform an Electoral Commission FAQ via this survey before the closing date on 8 March.

The LGA are holding a webinar with the Electoral Commission on 12 March at 2pm to discuss the new guidance. To attend please register via the LGA's events website.

Our group will be holding a significant group ‘de-brief’ following the above from 3.30pm – 4.30pm. Please join us for a discussion on what this means for our members and a chance to discuss campaigning ideas ahead of the elections in May. To attend please email For those in Surrey, there will be a second chance to discuss this on the 13th at 10am, details to follow. 

Our Be a Councillor support continues with our Candidate School while and the Independent Network have their fortnightly Saturday 11am Election Workshops, the next one is the 6 March.

This useful guide provides advice and guidance to councils on the publicity restrictions that should be observed during the pre-election period. The main criteria is that nothing your council does should impact how someone is going to vote.

LGA Model Member Code of Conduct: consultation response analysis

As you will recall, in June 2020 the LGA conducted a consultation to gather views on the LGA Model Councillor Code of Conduct 2020. Responses to the consultation were gathered through an online questionnaire as well as by email. This code of conduct report combines all of the responses received and presents an overview of the themes that emerged. Following my feedback and that of the group, work continues on guidance to support the model code so that all parties are clearer on what to expect, including timeframes.

Councillor Indemnity

As Returning Officers are legally responsible for the elections and concerned about the risk of Covid, the question of indemnity has been reconsidered. The question of member indemnity has also been raised with the group recently. In response, our legal team have provided the following clarification: Under Section 265 of the Public Health Act 1875, Councillors and Officers of the Council enjoy statutory immunity from civil liability where they act within the powers of the council, in good faith and without negligence. However they can incur personal, civil and criminal liability whilst acting on behalf of the Council if they go beyond the powers of the Council or act in bad faith or negligently, or when they are acting on outside bodies to which they have been appointed by the council. 

The Local Authorities (Indemnities for Member and Officers) Order 2004 gives specific powers for Local Authorities powers to grant indemnities and/or to take out insurance to cover the potential liability of Councillors and Officers in a wider range of circumstances than under the 1875 Act. However, it is up to each Council to decide whether to grant such indemnities, or take out insurance, and to decide (subject to restrictions set out in the regulations) the extent of such indemnities and insurance. Thus, this is a discretionary power not a duty. There is no duty on the Council to exercise its power in the regulations. If you are unclear on the position your council has taken in regard to this matter do check with your Monitoring Officer.

Fire Conference – next week

The LGA’s Free Annual Fire Conference is taking place next week with events spanning 1-4 March. Cllr Ian Stephens (Ind, Isle of Wight) Chairs the LGA Fire Services Management Committee and is chairing the opening session with Lord Greenhalgh, Minister of State for Building Safety, Fire and Communities. You can book sessions directly via the LGA events website. We will be holding a group session on 4 March at 1.45pm for members to join Cllr Stephens and discuss issues pertinent to fire and building safety. To attend please let the group office know on the usual email:

Regional meeting in the East Midlands

Members are invited to a regional meeting on the 5 March at midday to discuss key election issues including reorganisation, planning and tackling climate change, health centralisation and our financial viability. All are welcome. To reserve your place please email

Thank you for all of your ongoing contributions,

Yours Marianne

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