Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 12 March 2021

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

12 March 2021


Dear Colleagues,

I hope the Spring weather is lifting your spirits while the lockdown lifts with it and a third of the adult population have been vaccinated. It’s a busy time with elections looming and keeping the ship running well for residents.

Our Independent Group Executive met this week and reflected on how much the Group has achieved this year. We have drawn in more candidates than ever before, held Be a Councillor events throughout the year and a Candidate School over nine events. We have also supported current members with information, weekly bulletins, support material on our resources webpage, skills workshops, think tank policy events, conferences, and regional events across the country. Our Leaders and Board members have shaped policy at the LGA, in the media and nationally, most recently with the U-turn on doorstep democracy.

Is it matching your what you want?

Please let us know how you think our LGA Independent Group is doing. Our members and staff do a great job, and want to make sure it matches what you need and want, now and in future. Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated by taking our quick questionnaire. Many thanks for your help.


As millions more children are tested and start school with optimism, we have been working on supporting our schools locally where we can and nationally, through the LGA. This week, I raised with the Minister Nick Gibb MP, about the size of the testing operation being done by schools and the vaccination of teachers who have worked solidly throughout and deserve support. The Pupil Premium was also discussed.


On the elections, I spoke with the Minister Chloe Smith, referring to our concerns raised about the prevention of doorstep democracy, whilst allowing commercial leafletting, and welcoming the government u-turn. Market stalls open from April.

There may be local Covid-19 outbreaks, so getting leaflets out when you can remains important. Some of our members are delivering leaflets, but making a virtue of not campaigning, offering a weekly online workshop instead. Campaigning still has to fit within the Covid-safe rules, keeping 2 m distance, wearing a mask, not going inside houses and washing hands.

There remains concern on the guidance around the count, which still needs to be transparent and open to scrutiny by all parties and candidates. We asked for election staff to be vaccinated, which the government are not yet supporting, but councils are finding ways to ensure staff are covered by surplus vaccines locally.

The survey, which you completed recently via this bulletin, has fed directly into the Electoral Commission FAQ, now on their website. The webinar today, followed by our group debrief, were both extremely useful, slides will be available from the webinar on the LGA website soon.

Remote meetings

Colleagues and I have pressed the Secretary of State and Ministers for urgent certainty to be able to continue remote council meetings after the emergency legislation expires in May. If as they say, they have not got time  for the primary legislation needed, there are secondary challenges they could do, and they are being challenged on this. We have emphasised, the many benefits of these continuing and the impossible position if these have to cease. Even if we’re able to find the space and all are able and willing, full council can't yet meet in person because lockdown still restricts meeting numbers. Down-sizing council or committee sizes means excluding some elected members from doing their job and reducing democratic voices, something particularly important to our members who do not

Keeping up the day job

This week we marked International Women’s Day and many of us were active on social media, promoting the importance of full representation in our councils.

The LGA Board, Executive Advisory Board and Group Executive met this week. We are working on the important presence of local government at COP26, changes to the delivery of health and care, local outbreak management and support for those who have to isolate.


Matt Hancock attended the LGA’s Councillor’s Forum, and I questioned him on plans for the Integrated Care Services. We currently have partnerships, but plans to combine the CCG’s and Care into a new body, the ICS, could risk taking care out of local government control and into the NHS under the Secretary of State. He was also tackled on the costly centrally delivered test and trace, and some councils have now taken over their test and trace locally to deliver more effectively.

Devolution or reorganisation?

The LGA has helped to support the Devolution All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), which has launched its new report looking into the role of national government in devolution in England. The report calls on the Government to rethink a culture of centralisation that is leaving local areas behind. The report was covered on the BBC. The APPG helps to support the LGA’s lobbying to ensure that local government has the powers and resources it needs to strengthen our communities for the future. The Government’s Devolution White Paper, is due out after the elections.


This week I helped launch a new risk and resilience framework for councils. It is the result of two years’ work supported by the LGA, led by the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny and Localis. Some excellent speeches and questions asked.

Police and crime

The Government has introduced its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to Parliament today as part of efforts to overhaul the justice system. It will place a legal duty on councils, police, criminal justice bodies, health and fire services to tackle serious violence and share intelligence. It also plans to increase the maximum penalty for criminal damage of a memorial from 3 months to 10 years, give police more powers to tackle non-violent protests which cause significant disruption and crack down on unauthorised encampments. The LGA has briefed its Vice Presidents in the Commons and will update the Lords when it gets to them.

Air quality   

Twenty eight councils have been awarded a share of more than £5 million in government funding to deliver innovative projects to improve air quality. The funding, from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Air Quality Grant, will help them develop and implement measures to benefit schools, businesses and communities.

New fund for green recovery 

The second round of the Green Recovery Challenge fund has opened and will award up to £40 million in grants to environmental charities and their partners across England to retain and create jobs while restoring nature and tackling climate change. Environmental charities can now apply on their own or in partnership. This one has our members’ names on it!

Diary dates

Martin Bell

18 March, 6.00 - 7.00pm

We are hosting an evening with Martin Bell OBE, who will be sharing his experience of being an Independent MP for Tatton, as well as answering questions on his astounding careers as a journalist, war reporter and UNICEF Ambassador. To attend please email group office on

Good luck to all who are out campaigning, for local elections, PCCs and soon in Wales for the Welsh Senedd.

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