Independent Group Leader's Bulletin: 30 April 2021

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local government association - independent group

Member Bulletin

30 April 2021


Due to the pre-election period our weekly bulletins are on hold at the moment, but a few key updates for your information and action are shared below.

Remote meetings

This week we had the disappointing news that remote meetings will not be able to continue beyond the 7 May. The High Court judgement concluded that primary legislation is required. In our statement we expressed members’ frustration at the avoidable nature of the challenge now facing councils.

Many councils are in the process of arranging their annual meetings and working out what this means for planning meetings. Those scheduled between the 7 and 17 May are proving particularly problematic and we are seeking clarification on the options available.

The Government’s guidance on the safe use of council buildings, including meetings (Section 3c) indicates that social distancing rules may allow for indoor, in-person meetings from 17 May that could permit more than 30 people to come together including "activities which are likely to have comparable health risks to local authority meetings, for example allowing up to 1,000 people to attend performances or sporting events in indoor venues, or up to half-capacity (whichever is lower)." 

All efforts now move to responding to the Government's call for evidence on the use of virtual arrangements which closes on the 18 June. It would be very helpful if you were able to share your responses with the Group Office, including any additional costs your council will incur due to ending remote participation.

Change of control

Ahead of the elections next week, the LGA have produced a Change of Political Leadership Hub which provides advice, brings together access to support networks and case studies from councils that have been through this experience. The Hub contains practical tips and guidance for members and officers at pre-election stage, immediately after the election and also in the longer term. Further support is available via the Group Office and our Regional Peers.

New councillor support

There will be a range of events and support available for new councillors following next week’s elections. For our Group Leaders and those in touch with new members a few links you may want to share are below:

New Councillor Hub

The LGA has developed a New Councillor hub to provide newly elected members with all the essential information they need and complements the induction support councils have in place.

New Councillor LGA Welcome Events

Following the elections in May all newly elected councillors are invited to attend one of the LGA’s virtual national welcome events, hosted via zoom. This will be a great opportunity for new councillors to explore what their role means; learn about challenges facing councils; and find out more about the LGA and LGA Independent Group. 

The virtual events are free of charge and will run for 90 mins on 11 June (2pm), 22 June (10am) and 28 June (5:30pm) and delegates can choose to attend one of these sessions to suit their availability.  Following the elections an event link will be available for delegates to register via the LGA’s Events page.

New Councillor Planning Events

The Planning Advisory Service (PAS) are delivering some free councillor training on planning policy, decision making and infrastructure. The sessions will be delivered remotely as a morning or early evenings event. If you are a councillor who is new to planning, you have new members in your groups, or you want a refresher or an update please book a place.

Domestic Abuse Bill

The Domestic Abuse Bill received royal assent yesterday and marks an important step forward in the way domestic abuse is tackled, including recognition of children as victims of domestic abuse for the first time, a broadening of what is considered abuse and the establishment of the Domestic Abuse Commissioner. Although there is more to do, this is an important piece of legislation that comes after years of work by campaigners and bodies like the LGA.

Women in politics

Glitch’s brand new toolkit for women in public life, Dealing with Digital Threats to Democracy has been created in partnership with The Gender Institute at the Royal Holloway University of London and is designed to help women in politics:

  • Understand how to practise digital self-defence and self-care to make sure you're equipped to be resilient online
  • Become an online active bystander to support those experiencing online abuse
  • Keep your supporters safe online and support their journey to becoming online active bystanders
  • Be able to run positive public campaigns online 

Mumsnet letter on remote meetings

Following the decision on remote meetings, Mumsnet have written an open letter to Robert Jenrick, asking the Government to allow the continuation of online Council meetings to ensure council meetings remain accessible for parents and expectant parents.

If you are a councillor and a parent and would like to add your name as a signatory of this letter, please do so by 4 May. 

Brownfield Release Fund

The One Public Estate Programme has launched the Brownfield Land Release Fund (BLRF). This fund comprises up to £75 million of capital grant, available to eligible English local authorities to support local authority brownfield land release for housing, with £25 million ring-fenced to support self and custom-build delivery. One Public Estate partnerships are invited to coordinate applications to the fund from local authorities across their OPE partnership areas. Applications are welcomed by 23:59 Wednesday 2 June 2021.

For further details about the fund and how to apply, please visit our the Brownfield Land Release page on our website.

A BLRF Bid Writing Workshop and a Self & Custom Build Workshop will be held to support local authority officers to develop funding applications

For further details about the fund or the workshops, please contact your OPE Regional Programme Managers.

Good luck to all who are standing or out supporting candidates in the elections next week. The Office will be monitoring results but if there are any changes in your group and/or council please do let us know.