Thank you for your warm welcome at the four party conferences and five regional conferences in the last six weeks across England and Wales. It is inspiring to hear our members speaking up with vibrant determination to get the best for residents, work that we share in local government.
Despite what it seems the media and Central Government would sometimes have you believe, local government remains enormously important to our residents.
Like you, I want to live in a place where elderly people are active and included, everyone has a home they can afford, all children are safe and have a good school place near to where they live, adults have decent jobs and useful things to do in the community, and streets and parks are well maintained.
Almost everything at our front doors is in the hands of local councils, in your hands, as councillors. But there is only so much you can do locally. To do more, we need to work together to influence both the UK and Welsh governments to get proper funding; and the European Parliament to make the right decisions. We need the money and powers to do the job for which we were elected!
The Local Government Association has two jobs:
- to help you, councillors and your councils, do the best job possible, through briefings, peer support, conferences and training
- to draw on our local understanding and knowledge to influence and craft creative solutions for Central Government. That means we listen to you, our members. I was very pleased to meet so many of you recently at our conferences and monthly development sessions, and look forward to some excellent future events.
The next big event is our free, all-day Group Conference on Friday 24 November at 18 Smith Square, Westminster. This has been deliberately scheduled right before the weekend, so you can have a weekend away at the same time!
The Independent Group supports members who are not in the three usual parties, and focuses on getting the best for residents. The LGA funding comes from central Government, membership subscriptions and our own sources, which helps keep the subscriptions down.
We are in partnership with the Welsh LGA and we meet with BBC policy advisors to make it clear just how significant our group is, with well over 2,000 elected members.
You can join the monthly Information and Development sessions in person at 18 Smith Square or online through our webinar, which avoids the need to undertake long and sometimes difficult journeys. You can also join various think tanks to communicate directly with fellow councillors in shaping policy and tackling government.
In addition, please feel free to share anything you feel is relevant from my weekly bulletins as a foundation for your own local press releases. As we all know it is ever more important to keep up your profile.
What the LGA has done for your council is captured in an annually updated document. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you don’t receive one.
In the Spring Budget 2017, the LGA gained an extra £2 billion for adult care, including £600 million for Wales. We are now asking for £2 billion for Children's Services which, if successful, would also mean extra money for Wales.
I was very disappointed to learn recently that the Welsh Government had decided to cut the Rate Support Grant (RSG) to Welsh councils, which will make the job of being a councillor even more challenging. Councils in England will be £5.8 billion short of revenue by 2020 as the Government plans to reduce settlement grants to nil by 2020.
At the same time they reneged on allowing councils to keep 100 per cent of the business rates. It is important to make clear to all our residents that while demands are rising, governments are taking away our money, leaving us seriously short of adequate funding, even for basic services.
It is as important as ever to work together to collectively make our case clearly at every level, on behalf of our local authorities and our residents. The LGA, working with the Welsh LGA, remains critically well-placed to work with you to good effect.
I look forward to seeing you all at our conference on 24 November, if not before!