Group bulletin: 13 March 2023

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local government association - independent group

Group bulletin

13 March 2023


Greetings colleagues!

I hope you are well and coping with the winter snow. Clocks change on 26th March and election nomination papers have to be in by 4th April for around 80% of our members!

The LGA has a new website on elections which you may find useful and the Electoral Commission is the responsible body.

Our Independent Group Candidate School is doing well, with thanks to Councillors Craig Browne and Georgina Hill for excellent presentations on using social media and on canvassing respectively. Next we welcome the Electoral Commission on Friday 17th March from 7pm until 8.30pm, to talk about nomination papers, election agents, postal voting, spending and donations and Voter ID. To book for yourself or for others, please contact the Group Office.

Thank you for the warm welcome at the Plaid Cymru spring conference, where I was pleased to catch up with some inspiring speakers and shared concerns about securing the future of our public services. It was interesting to hear that the Welsh Assembly requires all renewable energy projects to have at least an element of local ownership since 2020. Residents can buy shares in the local turbines or solar panels. ‘Community Energy Wales’ is working on setting up and engaging local people in ownership of their own local projects. In Lincolnshire, we have three areas, each with thousands of acres of wheat-growing farmland proposed for conversion to solar panels, by foreign companies.

Thank you also to our members for sending in their contributions which helped formulate our official response to the ‘National Policy Planning Framework’ consultation. 

Finally, our lively Independent Group Executive met last week and agreed the business plan discussed the Agenda for the Annual Conference 4-6th July where our group has added some excellent items and speakers to the very promising programme. If you are coming under your own steam, especially for the free Tuesday AGM and Dinner, then please register with the office so they can ensure your free access to those and invitation to join us for a meal out on the Monday night. We also reviewed the phenomenal work programme. We are continuing to grow and expect many more members at the elections, giving us an even stronger position across the whole of the LGA.

Thank you for all you are doing, carrying the flag of great councillors and building the team for May 4th. I may see you at the Green Conference and we have many councils with coalitions in place or forming from within our group, where possible. We are stronger together, of course. Good luck in all you do.

Happy International Women’s Day!

It was the 115th International Women’s Day on Wednesday and I would like to thank all our female Councillors for all the work you do in representing and serving our local communities. The First Magazine have written an interesting article on ‘Embracing Equity’ which says that 35% of all Councillors are women, however, there is still more to do to ensure a level playing field in politics and political representation.

Centre for Governance and Scrutiny - Annual Scrutiny Survey

Each year the Centre for Governance & Scrutiny (CfGS) conducts an annual survey.  We are keen to hear from any members involved with Scrutiny and the results will be used to inform the guidance and support they provide, discussions with government and other sector bodies to improve policy and our work to promote the role of scrutiny and good governance.

Energy Bills support schemes: next steps – letter to local authorities

You can read the recent letter from Amanda Solloway MP, Minister for Energy Consumers and Affordability, to local authorities on the next steps for delivering energy bills support to households.

Sign up to the National Graduate Development Programme 

The National Graduate Development Programme (NGDP) matches high-calibre graduates with councils across the country, building capacity in local government and developing a pipeline of future leaders in the sector. The scheme provides an easy and cost-effective route for councils to attract and recruit talented and motivated graduates who add real value from day one. The LGA’s flagship two-year management trainee programme offers the opportunity for graduates to fast-track their local government career whilst allowing councils to develop their workforce. The deadline for councils to sign up is 31 March 2023.

Social Housing Complaints - ‘Make things right’  

A new government website aims to make it easier for social housing tenants to complain to their landlords. Complaints can include: repairs and maintenance, issues with communal areas, health and safety issues, anti-social behaviour as well as customer service. Landlords will be given time limits to respond and also will need professional management qualifications to ensure appropriate standards are met.

My Vote, My Voice campaign launched

My Vote My Voice aims to encourage people with learning disabilities and autistic people to vote. The campaign is delivered by national disability charities United Response, Dimensions, Mencap and Ambitious about Autism. The campaign aims to get young people and adults who are either autistic or have a learning disability interested in politics to register and ultimately vote in the next General Election. It includes accessible resources for people with a learning disability and autistic people, including information about the new voter identification requirements being introduced at the 2023 council elections.

Increasing planning fees and performance: technical consultation

This consultation seeks views on proposals to increase planning fees and to improve the performance of local planning authorities. We want you to tell us what you think about the proposals to:

  • increase planning fees by 35% for major applications and 25% for all other applications
  • additional fees for bespoke or ‘fast track’ services
  • make an annual inflation-related adjustment to planning fees
  • ring-fence additional fees income
  • double fees for retrospective applications
  • remove the ‘free-go’ for repeat applications
  • build planning capacity and capability within local authorities, including challenges in recruitment and retention, and how these can be addressed
  • reduce the Planning Guarantee from 26 weeks to 16 weeks for non-major applications
  • improve the quality of the local authority planning service by monitoring more performance measures.

You can respond online or email directly. Deadline for consultation is 25 April.

One Public Estate: Brownfield Land Release Fund (BLRF2) Round 2

There is £60m available in this round, with a total of £180 million Brownfield Land Release Fund (BLRF2) capital grant funding available to all constituent English councils over a three-year period to support the release of council-owned brownfield land for housing. Round Two funding is open to applications and applications close on 31 March.

Leisure Centres and Energy Costs: Write to your MP and DLUHC

The Minister for Sport, Stuart Andrew MP, has encouraged Councils to contact their MPs and the Department for Levelling-up, Housing and Communities keeping them informed of the challenges being faced in keeping leisure centres open. The LGA has been lobbying for more energy support for leisure centres and has designed a helpful template letter to be used for this purpose, please email:

Jo Cox Foundation – Send in your submission

The Jo Cox Foundation has launched a Civility Commission aiming to raise awareness of the issues of abuse, intimidation and harassment in public life and the detrimental impact these issues have on political life. The Commission will seek out possible solutions to the issue across all UK national and all levels of government and advocate for their adoption. If you have expertise on this issue - whether through your work or lived experience - please complete our call for submissions online form to help us gather a range of perspectives and ideas

Raising your issues with the Ministers

Thank you to Independent Council Leaders and Colleagues for comments on asylum seekers and on implementing Voter ID. Deputy Hannah Dalton and I raised these at the LGA boards and with the minister this week. We met with the Minister for Local Government Lee Rowley MP and I questioned about Local Councils being a more trusted partner in Government, such as being at the centre of local arrangements for SEND. As a previous successful councillor, Lee Rowley was supportive. We also raised again the problems with the Public Health budget still not being announced, just three weeks from the new financial year! All of the members on the Board and Executive are concerned about implementing voter ID and we have a further ministerial meeting on that in the next few weeks.

Special Educational Needs and Disability

There was a Government Public Policy conference this week on provision of SEND, Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, for children and young people up to age 25.  I presented the LGA’s response to the Government’s plan on how to improve the provision. We are calling for Councils to lead local partnerships including health and education, with both schools and academies. Councils clearly need the levers to help children get places in mainstream schools where appropriate and sufficient funding. We have Ofsted, CQC and the DfE exerting controls, and yet it is the Councils have the responsibility of ensuring that every child has the right education and care. The numbers of children with educational and health care plans has been increasing about 10% every year, with a further 43,000 last year. The current system is not working well.

Helping Workforce capacity

Our group have contributed to a really thorough investigation into problems of workforce capacity raised by our members. It was discussed at the Executive Advisory Board and it’s well worth having a look.

Dates for the Diary

Levelling-up locally inquiry launch
Tuesday 14th March 4pm

Over the past year the LGA has run a levelling up locally inquiry into how the Government’s levelling up agenda might better strengthen local communities. Through five roundtable discussions, commissioned research and analysis of demographic trends, the inquiry has broadened the conversation around levelling up and looked beyond the Levelling Up White Paper to investigate the role of local leadership in shaping a recovery that works for all. This is a hybrid event and will be an opportunity to hear the key findings and recommendations of the inquiry as well as network with attendees.

LGA Behavioural Insights Programme: tackling post pandemic challenges and the cost-of-living
Tuesday 14th March, 11.15am – 1.00pm

The Local Government Association is hosting a webinar about how we can use behavioural change techniques in our council services to work with communities and change their behaviour. The event will feature councils that have used behavioural change techniques to tackle their key challenges. Themes include how councils are changing behaviours relating to the cost-of-living, for example through supporting residents to reduce their energy consumption and increase take-up of home retrofitting measures. Councils will also share how they are using behaviour change techniques to support young people to access tools to improve their mental health.The event, funded by Government, will feature how the LGA is taking a regional approach in supporting councils to deliver behaviour change projects to combat these challenges.

Attracting a new talent pool in economic development and retaining staff in the sector
Wednesday 15th March, 2.00pm – 3.30pm

The LGA’s Improvement Team is hosting an Economic Growth roundtable which to explore how we attract new staff into economic development and retain staff in the sector. The roundtable will be hosted virtually, with up to 30 council officers with a responsibility for economic growth and development. This roundtable has been organised to reflect on the challenges and opportunities councils face across the country. Due to the limited places available for this event we ask that no more than one officer from each council attend.

Smith Square Debate – Climate Change: How to translate climate ambition into local action?
Thursday 16th March, 5.00pm – 6.30pm

Councils are central to leading local climate action. They directly influence a third of local emissions and are critical to place-based adaptation across villages, towns, and cities. The Smith Square Debate big questions are:

  • How well are we turning climate ambition into climate action in places? 
  • What must we do to accelerate climate action locally and nationally up to 2050?
  • How can we maximise councils' full potential as community leaders?

Race, elections and political participation
20th March, 6.15pm – 8.00pm

The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Race and Community is hosting a Parliamentary event exploring the ‘democratic deficit’ faced by Black and minority ethnic groups, and identifying solutions to help address the barriers to political participation. Please sign up via the Eventbrite link!

LGA Annual Conference and Exhibition
Tuesday 4th July – Thursday 6th July, Bournemouth

We will once again host the biggest event in the local government calendar, the LGA annual conference. After a very successful and well-attended event in Harrogate in 2022, the conference will be in Bournemouth this year. A range of expert speakers will join us to discuss the latest issues affecting our communities, our inspiring Innovation Zone will be running again, and very many exhibitors will be in attendance. Please book early to secure your place at this must-attend event!


Have a good week!

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