Group bulletin: 11 March 2022

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local government association - independent group

Group bulletin

11 March 2022


Greetings Colleagues,

As horrendous atrocities unfold in Ukraine, the LGA, our councils, and our communities are taking action. If you would like to sign as well to show your support, you can join me in signing the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR) statement on Ukraine. As of 9 March, over 600 councils have signed from 23 European countries.

We have called on the Government to work faster on helping the refugees. As of 9 March, the Government had granted 760 visas to Ukrainian refugees and councils stand ready to help new arrivals settle in to their communities, and to support communities to offer assistance to those fleeing the devastating conflict. The LGA is pressing for clarity on local government's role in supporting arrivals from Ukraine. There is also a backlog of refugees from Syria and Afghanistan in hotels awaiting settlement.

We are preparing for the domestic consequences in terms of increased fuel prices, inflation, transport and food. Councils and councillors have an important role in supporting community cohesion.

Heightened cyber risk

The National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has recently indicated that following Russia’s attack on Ukraine we are in a period of heightened threat. You may want to consider the following steps to protect your council:

  1. Speak to your officers to understand cyber risk. We have shared some strategic considerations and questions you may want to ask your officers.
  2. Keep up to date with NCSC advice and threat information. Ask officers how they are implementing the NCSC’s actions to take when cyber risk is heightened.
  3. Ensure your incident response and business continuity plans are up to date and tested.
  4. Check your backups and restore mechanisms are working correctly. Does your council have an offline secure copy of your backups?
  5. Access the LGA’s cyber security support offer, including the LGA Cyber 360 and funding for officer training.

On your behalf…

We’ve had a series of key meetings at the LGA this week including the LGA Board and Executive and our Independent Group Executive. Congratulations to Councillor Paul Woodhead, our Treasurer, for Bella’s Community Café collecting the bronze award in three categories at the Enjoy Staffordshire Tourism and Good Food Awards this week. A special mention also to Councillor Wayne Davies from the Independent Group Executive who has spent this week collecting donations and making his way to the Ukraine border in Poland, arriving earlier today.

Levelling up

Neil O'Brien MP, Minister for Levelling Up, The Union and Constitution, outlined the Levelling Up White Paper to our Executive Advisory Board this week. I asked for valuable devolution without reorganisation and about the value of councillors, defending that fewer councillor means less capacity. I also highlighted that putting all the power in one pair of hands was not the democratic and inclusive way we would like to work. The Minister reiterated that their preference was to have one person in control and the money and powers offered were to incentivise that. So how much do we need to be offered, in order to give up our councils and our councillors? Going through Parliament next week is the reorganisation of Somerset, with five days after that to call an election. This will be with new ward boundaries and reducing the democratic representation by councillors to around a third.

Integrated care systems

Gillian Keegan MP, Minister of State for Care, spoke to our LGA Councillor Forum on the “exciting” changes being made to improve health and care. I asked about strengthening the role of our already extant structures for joint working in the health and wellbeing boards, rather than diminishing them. The joint council / NHS boards already have cross-party support, significant joint budgets, professionals and democratically mandated leading councillors jointly engaged in making the right decisions for our residents. Colleagues raised the concerns of finances and democratic accountability. In the new system, who will be making the decisions and who will be choosing the people to make the decisions?

Voter ID

As part of the Elections Bill, Government proposes introducing compulsory voter ID requirements. The LGA cross-party working group presented their findings at the Executive meeting this week. Thanks to our Treasurer, Councillor Paul Woodhead, who represented our group. Significant fraud is in postal voting, not in in-person voting. Voter ID does nothing to tackle that fraud, but would be a barrier to voting for particular groups of people. The working group recommended that the Government ensures that every person has a voter ID before anything is introduced.

Find out more about the work of the LGA

To find all the work of the LGA in one place, the Councillor Forum agenda is a good overall source. Our Independent Group members on the LGA boards draw on discussions from our policy think tanks and summarise and send frank and inciteful reports to the Independent Group Executive. I drew on those reports and raised the same key issues in the ministerial meetings this week. Thank you and well done.

Getting the best for our members

Our Independent Group Executive of 11 members includes key active councillors leading in their areas, geographically and politically representative of England and Wales. We discuss key lobbying issues and how best to assist our members. We held an 'away day' last October to clarify objectives and actions which our Head of Group Office, Abigail Gallop, has represented in the group’s business plan. Since our number of members increased at the last election, we will be receiving a reasonable portion of LGA budget in the new financial year. We are also reviewing the group's election process as promised, to make it more accessible in 2023. We will be launching a working group on member engagement soon. If you would like to help with this, please let us know.

Independent Group Climate Change Conference

Friday 18 March, 10.15am–3.45pm | 18 Smith Square, London SW1P 3HZ
We are very excited to confirm that we have a wealth of great speakers lined up for our Independent Group Climate Conference. Speakers include:

  • Baroness Brown of Cambridge
  • Sophie Howes (Future Generation Commissioner, Wales)
  • Paul Behrens (Assistant Professor, Leiden University)
  • Emma Osmundsen (Managing Director, Exeter City Living)
  • and speakers from Climate Emergency UK, Climate Futures and One Planet.

Register now to attend our Independent Group Climate Change Conference

Local elections on 5 May

All councils in Wales and London are up for election in May, along with mayoral metropolitans and a number of other councils that have elections by thirds each year. You can access a full list of 2022 United Kingdom local elections on Wikipedia. The Electoral Commission has published guidance on local elections in England, including guidance for candidates and agents and election timetables. The elections are to be called by 28 March with nomination papers to be returned by 5 April. The Independent Group website is being updated with useful materials. Please do send us your campaign leaflets and we will add them to our campaign leaflet-sharing website.

It is a great time to get involved in helping colleagues and learning a few tips for yourself. Please offer through your party (if you have one), or become a ‘Be a Councillor Champion’ and we will put you in touch with local candidates. If you would like to get involved, please email

To all our candidates, please don’t forget we are here to help. We have a wealth of experience and qualified peers who will help you make decisions on how to deal with the politics in and out of the council.

I hope you are well and I look forward to seeing some of you out on the election trail. If democracy is to survive, we need Independent Group voices, loud and clear, speaking up for our residents, our countries and our planet. We need you!

Kindest regards,

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