Group bulletin: 4 April 2022

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local government association - independent group

Group bulletin

4 April 2022


Dear Colleagues,

I hope you are well, despite a shocking one in thirteen rate of people with COVID-19 in England and one in fourteen in Wales, energy prices going up by 50 per cent from last Friday and inflation expected to rise to 8 per cent this month, well above wages, putting significant pressure on our residents.

Local council elections

Nomination papers have to be in and checked as correct by 4pm tomorrow (5 April). The LGA Independent Group hosted a well-attended 'Be a Councillor' event last week in London, with eager and determined candidates from across London. Please let us know if you would like to get connected.

Good luck to all who are campaigning now. Let us know if you would like to take part and give a helping hand to a candidate near you. These next few weeks are a vital time to connect with residents, raising issues, listening and responding positively. Please get in touch!

Supporting Ukraine sanctions

The international meeting held online on Tuesday 22 March with the mayors of Ukraine, among other things, called for wider implementation of sanctions against business that profits Russia and Belarus. We followed this with a meeting of Independent Group council leaders and a cross-party meeting online with council leaders.

In solidarity, LGA Group Leaders wrote to Michael Gove MP (Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) strengthening the importance of listening to local government. At the moment, councils have been told by Government that it would not be legal to break contracts with Russia or Belarus, and we have called for release from that restriction. Some councils are reaching out to their contractors asking them to extricate themselves from Russian business where they can.

Tackling the hike in energy costs

The energy price cap has been lifted by 54 per cent for gas as of last week. This creates significant hardship for families and puts up costs for businesses, the public sector and charities across the board. In order to move more swiftly towards using less, we need easily available insulation grants for more than just those on benefits, improved building regulations to a higher energy efficiency and including a range of renewable and alternative energy sources.

Supporting refugees

Some of the 2,700 Ukraine refugees with visas so far, are now arriving through the twin tracks of the unfunded Friends and Family scheme and the funded Homes for Ukraine sponsorship scheme into people’s homes. Some are quickly presenting as homeless, adding to our extant problem of refugees from other countries, many of whom are still in hotels. The LGA gave evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee chaired by Clive Betts MP, basing comments on our discussions and on the Survey of Homelessness Presentations by Ukrainian Arrivals highlighting 209 Ukrainians who had presented as homeless. There are just under 60,000 visa applications received to date and Lord Harrington is seeking to speed up the rate.

We are demanding better data so we know which homes have offered to sponsor, in order to check them for suitability before the refugees arrive and to rehouse any who become homeless where the home relationship breaks down. Safeguarding is important and some refugees may be unaccompanied minors, though that is contrary to agreements. We have also asked for the ability to do a 'light touch' assessment, rather than the usual extremely thorough assessments, and the Government has responded with a useful change in the Homes for Ukraine guidance for councils. A letter was also published for councils on Council Tax discounts and exemptions.

Getting the best education for children

This has been an important week for the arrival of the schools white paper and the green paper on education for children with special educational needs and disability (SEND), both out this week. The overarching white paper is entitled Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child. Two of our requests are included:

  • councils can create their own multi-academy trusts
  • home-schooled children must be registered with the council.

In the green paper on education for SEND and alternative education, now out for consultation, there are now 430,000 children and young people with an Education, health and care plan (EHCP), an increase of 40,000 in the last year alone. The paper includes provision for councils to direct a school to take a particular child, so that no one is left out.

We will now be looking to work closely with Government, partners as well as parents and carers, to develop both sets of proposals in further detail. Please use our Independent Group policy think tanks to ensure your voice is included in discussions.

LGA Annual Conference and Exhibition

Tuesday 28–Thursday 30 June | Harrogate Convention Centre (in-person)
Join us in Harrogate for the biggest event in the local government calendar, where we’ll be discussing the latest issues affecting local government.

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