Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 19 March 2021

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local government association - independent group

Group Leader's Bulletin

19 March 2021



I hope you are well and managing to keep organised despite the pressures!

Evening with Martin Bell OBE

We had an inspiring evening with Martin Bell OBE yesterday online with very interesting conversations. He is hugely supportive of Independents in Government at all levels. Thank you to everyone who attended this evening and asked such brilliant questions. Here are some great quotes from Martin you may enjoy or like to use:

“Stay on the high ground, be who you are and make contacts where you can.’

‘It’s a good time for Independents. It’s time for a good heart!’

‘Circumstances are often against independents, especially with national party broadcasts, but people are looking for something different and it can be done’

And finally, ‘Never be discouraged and you can make miracles happen’.

Containing and managing local COVID-19 outbreaks 

We have called for local councils to have more say on local lockdowns. The Government has responded with new guidance for us on containing and managing COVID-19 outbreaks at a local level.

Violence Against Women and Girls Calls for Evidence

Following the terrible news recently about Sarah Everard, violence against women and girls has been at the forefront of many of our minds. The Government has reopened its call for evidence to inform its strategy, receiving over 90,000 additional responses in the last week. This applies to both England and Wales, with a Welsh version of the strategy available on the website.

You may want to respond to the questionnaire directly, otherwise the group is able to feed in your comments to the LGA response, which is being worked on now. Please email if you have any views that you would like us to put forward in regards to this. The survey closes at 11.45pm on 26 March 2021.

The press are taking a particular interest and you may like to talk to your local contacts. We are calling for pressure on the social media companies to control anything illegal or threatening. Clearly this seriously undermines our democracy, interferes with good debate and puts off good councillors from even standing in the first place. It is not acceptable and we all need to report it and call it out, wherever it occurs.

NPPF Consultation

Thank you if you have already responded to the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) proposed changes. The current consultation is on the Design Code. That’s the small part of planning the Government plans to leave in Council’s hands, but constrained with a detailed set of rules which they are consulting on now and until 27 March. The current consultation is seeking views on draft revisions to the NPPF and a new draft National Model Design Code. Your councils, I’m sure, will be responding but please add your thoughts.

Members of our group are clear that revisions do not go far enough on climate change mitigation, including the 2050 zero carbon ambition. Councillor Sue Roberts has passed on a very useful template response if you wanted to reply quickly. You do not have to answer all questions, but you do need to ‘Submit’ anything you do write.

In Chapter 2 of the consultation: Achieving sustainable development, you could cut and paste the below paragraph or suggest your council includes this text:

I do not agree with the changes because they do not go far enough. I support the change to paragraph seven making reference to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. However, the NPPF needs to make explicit reference to the ambition to be net zero by 2050. A new paragraph therefore needs to be inserted after paragraph nine: “Climate change is the greatest long-term challenge facing the world today. Addressing climate change is therefore the Government’s principal concern for sustainable development. For the avoidance of doubt, achieving sustainable development includes securing the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. All planning strategies, and the decisions taken in support of them, must reflect the Government’s ambition to help business and communities build a zero carbon future and prepare for the impacts of climate change. Accordingly, planning policies and all planning decisions must be in line with the objectives and provisions of Climate Change Act 2008 including the 2050 net zero carbon target.”

Embassy visit – Israeli approach to vaccinations

This week the Israeli Embassy sent a delegation to discuss local government tackling the recovery and covid. We understand they have 80 per cent of their population in Israel itself now vaccinated, including 130,000 workers commuting from Palestine, where vaccinations appear to have hardly begun. Israel is considering a vaccination "Green Pass" which allows vaccinated people to carry on with life pretty much as normal. Thirty-nine per cent of the one million not vaccinated are Israeli-Arabs. I raised the importance of building trust and providing services to the "hard to reach", as we must with our homeless. They have elections on 23 March.

Boards this week

This week, our Children and Young People, People and Places, Safer and Stronger Communities, and Culture Tourism and Sport Boards met to discuss a wide range of views, again demonstrating the breadth of local government. Topics discussed included education recovery, a review of children’s social care, devolution, coastal and rural recovery, the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, the protect duty, building safety and leisure provision. Our Board members and think tanks do a tremendous job representing our group’s views at the highest levels of Government. If you want to get involved do sign up to a think tank by emailing the office on

Fire services

It was announced this week that the Home Secretary is keen to move forward with plans to move fire services out from local government and under the Police and Crime Commissioners. This is another central government mandate that is a very disappointing move. We have pushed back via the LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee, chaired by Cllr Ian Stephens. We will continue to challenge more centralisation of power in the hands of a few and if a consultation is published I’d encourage you all to put in a strong response.

This is more worrying when we see the current Command and Control approach spilling into the consultations that have been done, ready for release into the legislative process after the elections. We asked for devolution, we get reorganisation of local government. We asked for secure long-term funding for adult care, we get reorganisation to form new bureaucracy, the Integrated Care Systems. Doing away with the local planning as we know it was not anything we asked for either! I see a worrying trend to listen less to local voices, and it is vital we campaign on these important issues.


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