Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 5 March 2021

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

5 March 2021


Dear Colleagues,

I hope you and yours are well and perhaps enjoying a little of the optimism of spring time.


As your council budgets get passed, you will have noticed a late increase, extra funds agreed following tremendous work at the LGA. Leading councillors and officers made a successful case for those funds, a case that was clear, well calculated and well managed. Thanks for your support through the think tanks, directly to me or to the office, and to government, giving us the evidence to call for secure funding from government for our councils in the recent settlement.

This week, the Conservative government budget as a whole takes borrowing to £233.9bn next year, close on 100% of GDP, increasing corporation tax significantly and freezing individual tax allowances in future years. The furlough scheme is extended until September, beyond the planned end of lockdown on 21 June. We released an on the day briefing, and my statement on your behalf is here.

The vast majority of the 45 Towns Fund recipients are in Conservative MP areas, some being swing seats where our members are benefitting. These sums are significant. For example, near Stockton, 27,000 people can access £23.9m and they will have one of the eight free ports from late 2021. New and expanding businesses in free port areas will be exempt from business rates, gain customs benefits and receive government support.

We welcome the additional grants and £425m for discretionary business support. Many of our members have lobbied for and now welcome the £20 a week uplift in Universal Credit being maintained. Zero interest loan schemes are also offered.

Disappointing is the silence on social care or public health, and Green investment is limited: £20m for offshore wind, £68m competition and £4m for a feedstocks programme. Brighton and Hove announced a £27m programme this year in their council budget alone, which gives perspective on just how limited the government’s sights are. It feels as though we are still tidying the stationery cupboard while the ship is sinking. There is £1bn in the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio fund, and councils need the key to access it.

The UK Community Renewal Fund is the prosperity fund to replace EU funds. It has cautiously allocated a firelighter of £220m to help 100 most economically challenged areas co-ordinate applications for pilot projects.

There is also £3bn to support the NHS backlog, £10m for the Armed Forces Covenant Fund, £150m to help communities buy local assets, £19m on top of the £125m for tackling domestic abuse.

Your feedback wanted

As in previous years, we are asking members for their feedback on the work of the LGA Independent Group. What are we doing well and what would you like to see more of? Please do take five minutes to leave your feedback, it really does help ensure the office activity is delivering what our members value most.

Election advice

Following our successful campaign, COVID-safe leafletting and door-knocking is allowed from Monday 8 March, as the cabinet office published that last week. We asked for better guidance on elections from the candidates’ perspective, and the Electoral Commission has published 'Supporting candidates and agents'.  They have also updated various other guidance aimed at officers following recent legislative changes. (Bulletin 303 - 4 March 2021).

Our Elections Hub has also been launched this week, with information and guidance related to the May 2021 elections.


We worked hard on a Code of Conduct which was agreed cross-party and there has been discussion nationally. The proof of its benefit will be in how it is interpreted, and the processes managed, fairly and in proportion by our councils. In defending what we believe is right, we do rub up against party politicians and even officers at times, despite our best efforts. Tackling issues on behalf of colleagues or residents is not always easy! Our Independent Group offers accredited peers to assist, so please feel free to seek advice in confidence. Some legal advice is also possible through the Independent Network.

Fire and culture conferences

This week our lead members have done well hosting sessions during the virtual culture and fire conferences. Thanks to all who managed to attend and found it useful, I hope. Slides and relevant resources can be found on the past events page on the website.

Thank you and good luck

Thank you for all the great work you are doing, showing the vital part our Independent Group members play in our councils and our communities. It’s inspiring to you help keep your councils running well. Good luck if you are also be standing or supporting candidates in the biggest elections in many years. Don't forget the campaign corner and resources pages on our website. We are here to help, just ask.

Diary dates

Election events

Election guidance debrief

12 March, 2.00pm

We are holding a webinar with the Electoral Commission on 12 March, 2pm. That is immediately followed with a facilitated discussion for our group. This gives you a chance to see how it affects your campaign and share ideas. We will be joined by guest speakers from the Green Party and Ashfield Independents. Reserve your place by emailing the group office using the title ‘election debrief’.

Martin Bell

18 March, 6.00 - 7.00pm

I am pleased to invite you to an evening with UNICEF ambassador, war reporter and previously Independent MP Martin Bell. Martin is a friend of the group and is supportive of our Be a Councillor work so is going to reflect on his time as an Independent politician and answer questions from our members and candidates. To reserve your place please email the office on and use the title ‘Martin Bell’

First time candidates

23 March, 10.30am

The Centre for Governance and Scrutiny is offering a free webinar on 23 March at 10.30am for candidates in the May elections. It's aimed at first timers, to give them a taste of what to expect and help prepare elected candidates to engage more quickly.

LGA Independent Group

The Candidate School Programme is underway.

Independent Network

6 March, 11.00am

The latest Independent Network fortnightly election workshop is 6 March, 11.00am, book here.

Public health conference

23 March - 24 March 2021

This year’s free LGA / ADPH annual public health conference 2021: rising to the challenge of COVID-19 is two full days. There is a newly announced session with Professor Chris Whitty from 10.00am - 12.00pm on 23 March. Due to members likely wanting to attend this, we will be arranging our climate conference for later in the day, further details will follow next week.

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