Group bulletin: 10 December 2021

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local government association - independent group

Group bulletin

10 December 2021


Dear colleagues,

I hope you and your family are well as we approach the Christmas break.

Plan B – three new December rules to tackle COVID-19

This week saw the one-year anniversary of the first COVID-19 vaccination, and the Prime Minister’s confirmation of the move to Plan B in England which includes directions to:

  1. wear face coverings indoors (except in pubs and hospitality venues) from 10 December
  2. work from home, if you can, from 13 December
  3. make NHS Covid Pass mandatory in specific settings, using a negative test or full vaccination via the NHS Covid Pass, from 15 December

The infection rate has risen significantly, but hospitalisations are nowhere near previous levels – the vaccinations are working. The advice of 'face, space, hands and ventilation' still applies. Christmas parties, however, still seem to be fine!

View the Government's interactive map of COVID-19 cases

Ministerial roundtable

The LGA has again written on your behalf to Government ministers calling for councils in England to be able to meet and vote remotely – particularly given yesterday’s working from home announcement. We continue to make the economic, environmental and democratic case for the rules to change, and we have been using your evidence to make a very compelling case. I directly asked the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, previously and followed up directly with the Minister yesterday. We have cross-party agreement and LGA staff have been working with ministerial staff to back us up, seeking the required emergency legislation. We have also asked our vice presidents to ask a Parliamentary Question to this effect, and you may like to raise it with your local MPs, some of which are senior ministers. We also raised the following six concerns about councils' on-going battle with COVID-19:

  1. supporting residents in care homes, pressures on ambulances and A and E, encouraging vaccine take-up
  2. economic impact of further lockdown without new grants and economic uncertainty during the coming months
  3. increased demand on services at the same time as lower income and tax collections rates, new role in encouraging compliance with the new rules in plan B, focusing on keeping premises compliant
  4. keeping schools open and focusing on student health
  5. impact on council budgets.

We understand the knock-on costs in extra mental health support have been considered in the settlement – out this week.

Read Government guidance for councils during the COVID-19 pandemic

Levelling up

Last weekend it was reported that the Levelling Up White Paper will be delayed until the new year, indicating a possible rethink. Leaked proposals, so far, have included having 'governors' instead of 'mayors' (with London-style powers) everywhere by 2030; and a possible new quango (like the office of budget responsibility) to keep focus on levelling up. The delay of the white paper means the hugely unpopular planning proposals are also delayed.

Planning motion

Our Independent Group Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport (EEHT) think tank has been in hot discussion about planning. Since we have a new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Michael Gove, MP), and delayed planning legislation, we now have a chance to impact a change. You may want to write to the Secretary of State using this example letter, or put a motion to your council as follows:

“This Council calls on Michael Gove MP to scrap the five-year land supply requirement. It effectively punishes councils for private firms not building, something over which they have no control. 90 per cent of applications are passed and more than 1.1 million homes with permission are waiting to be built. The housing requirements need to be more clearly focused on the local need for housing, including affordable housing and the availability of matching infrastructure.”


Retrofitting with insulation and efficient heating is the number one job to save energy and the planet. We’re interested if anyone has done costings on retrofitting that they can share? One of our councils found the total cost to be £37 million for 3,100 homes, while another found the average price of retrofitting was between £34,000 and £37,000 per house. My council has calculated the total cost of getting our district to net zero to be £1.45 billion. For councils with housing, retrofitting up to the required energy efficiency level of 'C' is a significant concern. The Government has proposed that all rental properties will need an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of ‘C’ or above by 2025. Similar to the previous changes, the new regulations will be introduced for new tenancies first, followed by all tenancies from 2028.


Lord Bird, one of our vice presidents and founder of The Big Issue, has launched a new campaign to stop mass homelessness and to ensure that the estimated £360 million in rent arrears is addressed, in order to prevent a mass homelessness crisis. The Government announced £65 million for vulnerable renters at the end of October, which was largely welcome, but more is needed. Recent analysis found that the Treasury could save up to 2.6 billion if they addressed the rent arrears crisis now. The Big Issue is calling for more money for councils to deal with rent arrears. Do you feel that your council has been able to identify those who need support with rent, and to target resource effectively to address rent arrears? How has your council tackled the wider problems leading to people losing their homes? Does your council have a good example that we could share on how funds were used to help prevent homelessness? If any housing leads would like to input into this work please email

UK100 (local government leaders network) launches climate programme

UK100 has just launched a new programme – Local Climate Engagement – to support local authorities to engage their local populations in climate decision-making. Through the programme, UK100 and its partners will work with two groups of local authorities:

  • Local authorities who join the Coaching Group will develop their capability and confidence in planning, commissioning and overseeing public engagement in climate decision-making. The programme includes training for council officers, draw-down mentoring time, and peer learning sessions.
  • Local authorities who join the Project Group will work with us to deliver a high quality piece of local public engagement in climate decision-making, and start to embed the approaches and skills needed for future participation work. The programme content includes training for council officers, up to £45,000 of our time (pro-bono) to support each local authority to plan and deliver a piece of public engagement work, and peer learning sessions.

Full information is available in the prospectus and FAQs. Local authorities wishing to join the programme should send a completed expression of interest form to with the subject line ‘LCE application’. The deadline for expressions of interest is Monday 24 January 2022.

Council lotteries

My council has just joined a lottery scheme run by an external company that runs lottery schemes for councils. 60 pence of every pound goes to local good causes and there is a main prize of £25,000 every week. Maybe your council is involved in this, or another, scheme? People sign up to a weekly commitment of £1 per week or more. There is a risk that it encourages spend from those who can least afford it, but at least this one has a clear local benefit.

Huge thanks for all your continued work. It is astonishing just how much our councillors do in our communities and in our councils.

Thank you!

Councillor Marianne Overton MBE signature

Councillor Marianne Overton MBE
Leader of the Independent Group
Vice Chair of the Local Government Association

Portrait photo of Councillor Marianne Overton, Leader of the LGA Independent Group