Group bulletin: 17 March 2023

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local government association - independent group

Group bulletin

17 March 2023


Greetings colleagues!

This week saw Jeremy Hunt’s first budget as Chancellor. Following our months of campaigning on the recent Local Government Financial Settlement, there were some wins for us.

It was agreed that £60m will be invested in our leisure centres to keep our swimming pools open and to help reduce excessive energy costs. We will need to ensure this investment reaches those it promises and will lead to an energy efficient future with a focus on energy renewables and alternatives.

An extra £200m is promised to tackle the scourge of potholes in our roads and local infrastructure. I like to remind voters out on the campaign trail, “Do not vote for tax cuts if you want your roads fixing!”

There are more councils invited into devolution deals, but we are pushing for devolution of power and money to our councils as they are, without re-organisation to dissolve local democracies and centralise power. Much is made of ‘devolution trailblazer deals’ but it is important that Government work with local councils around when and how.

Investment Zones are supported in the budget. Following our work, there is no further mention on de-regulation of planning within those zones but instead a commitment to reaching net-zero by 2050 as the basis for agreements.

To help capacity in the workplace, a new government programme of ‘returner-ships’ aims to accelerate apprenticeships, work placements and bootcamps for the over 50s. However, we expect there to be a guarantee of a permanent job at the end. The LGA has provided a helpful briefing which will provide useful reading for you and your councils.

Eight councils were successful in getting a share of £200m towards using digitalisation and artificial intelligence to improve services. You can consider their ideas and progress.

Visiting your patch – Plaid Cymru Spring Conference

I was delighted to visit Plaid Cymru members and Councillors at their annual spring conference in Llanelli last week and to thank the Association of Plaid Cymru Councillors for their work. There were excellent speeches and I gained a good understanding of our members’ principles and where we hold common ground in representing our residents. Debates with the unions and what it means to be Plaid Cymru, not Labour were very relevant. I listened to the furore over the £27m power lines across the country from the new site of renewable energy. The vast Celtic arrays planned off Scotland and Ireland with little or no local buy-in may overtake the need for huge externally owned onshore industrial sites less important.

Green Party Conference

A guest at the Green Party Conference, I was pleased to host a packed session with Abigail from the Group Office, covering our work on localisation of reaching net zero. I also hosted an evening reception for Councillors talking about how the LGA can help. Cllr Julian Dean and I thanked Sally Pickering for her years working with us for the Association of Green Councillors. It was great to catch up with Baroness Natalie Bennett, former Green Party Leader, who attended our Independent Annual Conference as well as London Assembly Member, Sian Berry.

Interesting was a vote for Gary Lineker’s free speech and a detailed professional study of the impact of Green Party policy on their target for reaching net zero, which is very useful for us all. There was a demonstration against HS2 which is currently behind schedule and overspent, up from £48bn in 2011 to more than £125bn by 2020, according to the Institute for Government.

My visit to Tower Hamlets

As part of my “roadshow tour” visiting Independent Council Leaders throughout England and Wales, I met the Mayor of Tower Hamlets Lutfur Rahman. The Mayor has some very ambitious plans for his London Borough which include free school meals for primary and secondary school children as well as the re-introduction of the Educational Maintenance Allowance and University Bursaries.

As for all our members, I laid out the support on offer from our LGA Leadership Academy on training and developing new and established councillors in different areas of local government. Whether in administration, opposition or just starting out, there really is something for everyone. Please speak to Grace Collins for further information.  

Council Debt – see how much your council spends

A recent Sky News report revealed that more councils are now spending more on debt than public services thanks to a decade of austerity and a recent push towards riskier commercialism in order to pay for services. Councils such as: Woking, Slough, Croydon and Thurrock have received Section 114 notices due to deficits in commercial investments. The LGA continues to call for more multi-year settlements as well as fairer funding for all different types of councils as the only way to prevent risky investments or raiding reserves. We are having to look at how better to support intervention, but these councils have had LGA support and the unsuccessful investments were made at a time of Government pressure in that direction.

Join the conversation with the Electoral Commission today: Be a Candidate School

This year’s candidate school is coming to an end with one of our last online sessions taking place this Friday. We are pleased to welcome officers from the Electoral Commission who will be speaking to participants about nomination papers, agents, Voter ID as well as electoral spending. This session promises to be our most important one and is not to be missed! If you know of anyone who is standing as an Independent Candidate in this year’s local elections and would be interested in attending, please do get in touch with the office.


The latest census has just been produced, making very interesting reading. How have local voices in your area changed over the past decade? Find out now!

Dates for the Diary

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 2023 (in-person event)
Tuesday 4 – Thursday 6 July 2023 | Bournemouth

Join us in Bournemouth for the biggest event in the local government calendar, where we’ll be discussing the latest issues affecting local government.

National Children and Adult Services Conference and Exhibition 2023 (in-person event)
Wednesday 29 November – Friday 1 December 2023 | Bournemouth

The National Children and Adult Services Conference is a must-attend event for councillors, directors, senior officers, directors of public health, policy makers and service managers, and any individuals or organisations with responsibilities for children and adult services in the statutory, voluntary and private sector.

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