Group bulletin: 22 September 2022

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local government association - independent group

Group bulletin

22 September 2022


Greetings colleagues!

I hope you are well and had something of a break over the summer. I had a good 10 days revisiting the Centre for Alternative Technology, seeing friends, and an active week in Pembrokeshire. It’s good to be back; ready to get things humming again. Due to recent events, everything has had to be put on hold out of respect, including member inductions. Now I offer a warm welcome to our new Executive and Board members and I wish you the very best of success in your new roles.

HM Queen Elizabeth II 1926 – 2022

The United Kingdom witnessed the end of more than 70 years of unstinting public service by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, as Head of State, Head of the Commonwealth and as our Queen. As Leader of the LGA Group of Independent Councillors, I laid flowers in thanksgiving to Her Majesty on behalf of the Group and also paid respects to the Queen lying-in-state. I think we recognise good qualities of leadership, sense of cohesion and commitment that I hope we can keep in our communities in the years to come, as King Charles III takes the throne.

New Political Officer

A warm welcome to Rodrigo Sanchez who joins us as our new Political Officer, bringing an insight from the Government Department for Work and Pensions. He joins Abigail Gallop (Head of Group Office) and Noleen Rosen who continue with us at the LGA Independent Group Office. I am sure you will join with me in wishing Rodrigo every success and enjoyment in his new role.

The new Prime Minister

With Liz Truss now in position, we have a lot to do. The mini-budget will be announced this Friday with anticipated tax cuts. We have already made significant cuts to services and already struggle to meet current costs in adult care, let alone the escalating demands on us.  We have more people in need, more unable to pay their hugely increased energy bills, their council rents and rates, more homeless plus our own raised pay and energy bills. Is this really the time to be cutting taxes?

Working cross-party in the LGA, we have been making the case for better funding, a levelling-up agenda which does not have to involve unnecessary reorganisation of our councils, and explaining why their planning proposals would be so damaging, working together with ministers on settling refugees, and widening the support for insulation of homes.

Cost of living crisis

The increase in the price of energy – petrol, gas, and electricity - needs to be controlled, which is more difficult in the UK since it is largely privatised and we import so much.

Liz Truss has announced a cap on electricity and gas unit cost which will calculate out at £2,500/year for the average household. There is also a "floor" where no support is given, so it is going to be complicated. The cost and increased borrowing is not published. "The equivalent package," for businesses, schools and charities is for six months only. Northern Ireland, on the wrong side of the European border, cannot access the support, nor vote for the Conservatives at the next general election, and doesn't have a working Assembly.

At the time of writing, the Government has also announced a further package of support for energy firms, for six months, from 1 October. The scheme will provide a discount for gas and electricity unit prices, where suppliers will apply a reduction to the bills of all eligible non domestic customers and the Government will compensate suppliers for the reductions they are passing on to their customers. Hospitals, schools and charities will also get help but details are yet to be finalised.

Many of our council groups have supported the campaign for the Government to place a windfall tax on unexpected profits of big oil and gas companies, to help all households with their energy bills, rather than from the public purse.

The green levy is just part of our tax, so lifting that will have little influence in itself, but may lead Liz Truss to shut off the incentives for renewable energy. Global companies are putting in significant farmland and offshore applications right now.

It seems daft to subsidise foreign companies to sell us electricity, sometimes even made here in the UK, at an inflated amount when we could produce more of our own; on every appropriate rooftop, for a start. It also seems odd to pay residents to heat leaky homes, and then not subsidise the insulation for a long-term saving. I have called on the Government to make these grants much more widely available and to more people.

Many of our Independent Group councils have put together excellent information packages for residents. The LGA has collated case studies where you may also want to contribute. It’s called the “Cost of Living hub”.

Many of our councillors are playing a central role in their communities, supporting community shops, village "bring and take" food banks, pop-up repair shops, a warm lounge above a bakery, lunches, community pubs and tea shops. Can you send a photo of yourself and colleagues at one of these with an explanatory sentence? We can encourage and share good ideas.

Clarence Barrett Award and Citations nominations 2022

Nominations are now open for Members to choose a councillor who has gone above and beyond in their work, to contribute something significant to local government and residents. The link to this year’s nomination is below and the deadline to nominate is 5.00pm on Friday 7 October:

Clarence Barrett Award and Citations nominations 2022

LGA Conference

Please join us at the Independent Group Conference on 28 October 2022 at 18 Smith Square, Westminster. It’s always a really good event, free, and well worth your coming along.

I look forward to attending all our group conferences this autumn to give support to all our members and make sure I understand and draw on their key issues. Congratulations to Cllr Zack Polanski, elected this week as the new Deputy Leader of the Green Party and to Cllr Ed Gemmel, now leading the new Climate Party. Also I had a useful conversation last week with Adam Price, Leader of Plaid Cymru, and Liz Saville. The Independent Network is about to restart regular meetings online after the holiday break.

Book your place.

And finally…

We are facing such huge challenges locally and in the world, it is a really good time to work together. It will need all of us if we are to succeed. Good luck in all you are doing. The next bulletin will be out shortly detailing our response to the Government "mini-budget" this week and more about our upcoming conference.

Best wishes,