LGA in Parliament 2022/23
Local government is responsible for delivering over 800 services for our residents – your constituents – and so it is no surprise that the Local Government Association (LGA) has a keen and active interest in the business of Parliament, the decisions taken and their impact on people, places, and the planet.
In another busy year, we engaged with parliamentarians on a wide range of issues impacting councils and promoted the value of local leadership to create sustainable growth, improved public services and a stronger society. In our Parliamentary report for 2022/23, I am pleased to provide an update on our engagement with MPs and peers as you conducted your important business of scrutiny and legislation.
When I was elected LGA’s cross-party Chair in July, I committed to working tirelessly to champion councils of all shapes, sizes, and colours. But the LGA cannot do this alone, and we continue to work constructively with MPs, peers, committees, all-party parliamentary groups, and parliamentary staff to ensure the voice of local government is heard in the corridors, committee rooms, and chambers of the Palace of Westminster.
I passionately believe that councils improve the lives of our residents lives every day. Whether that is providing adult social care or supporting our young people to achieve the best start in life, councils are pivotal to addressing the public’s priorities and the challenges facing our communities. Councils have worked to tackle the rising cost of living, provided a safety net for their communities, and joined forces with a range of partners to ensure the wellbeing of their residents. Our councils have worked tirelessly to address local housing challenges and create homes for current and future residents.
Councils are committed to innovating and improving the services they provide for their communities. The LGA is working at pace to develop a plan that will empower local government to work to its full potential. We have set out the ground work for this plan in the LGA’s Make it Local publication, launched at this year’s LGA annual conference. To achieve this, we will need a completely reset partnership between central and local government. We will be consulting with our member councils and a wide range of stakeholders, including the public, and Parliamentarians on how local government can deliver the best outcomes for communities working with whoever forms the next government.
With the support of MPs and peers the LGA has continued to campaign on behalf of our membership, and we have taken every opportunity to help inform the scrutiny of policy and legislation. We are one of the organisations that engages with parliamentary committees the most, and we contributed to just under 80 parliamentary inquiries over the past year, providing thought leadership and challenge on a range of issues. Over the next year in Parliament in the crucial run up to a General Election we will step up our briefing, engagement, and support for parliamentarians even more. Over the past year, we have supported parliamentary activity on a range of topics, from levelling up and community regeneration, to disposable electronic cigarettes, to tackling loneliness and were mentioned more than 500 times in Parliament. This report highlights the vast variety of ways the LGA has advocated for positive change on behalf of councils, and we look forward to working with Government and Parliament on the full range of legislative proposals and White Papers over the next year.
We thank our LGA vice-presidents and all the MPs and peers who have worked to support us and local government over the past year and we look forward to continuing to work with them and with government to shape the coming legislative agenda.
We also pay tribute to our former President, Lord Kerslake, who passed away in July. Lord Kerslake was a giant in local government and spent his entire professional career working to improve public services. He was a passionate champion of local government and committed to his LGA role as an Independent Vice-President until his death. He will be sadly missed by all of us in local government.
My thanks also to my colleagues across local government who have given time from their schedules to share their experiences and insights in evidence to various parliamentary committees on behalf of the LGA, our special interest groups, or their own councils. This report, and the LGA’s efforts to shape the parliamentary agenda, would not be possible without their support.
Councillor Shaun Davies
The LGA is the national voice of councils. A vital part of our role is working with parliamentarians as we seek to inform debates, the scrutiny of legislation that affects local government, and shape the reports of select committees and All-Party Parliamentary Groups.
The LGA benefits from a significant profile in Westminster. In the 2022-23 parliamentary session we were mentioned 556 times in Parliament.
To help deliver this we have:
- briefed for 54 parliamentary debates and 45 debates on legislation, securing support from MPs and peers for our campaigns and policy positions
- LGA representatives appeared before 20 parliamentary inquiries, and we have produced 58 written submissions to inquiries to help inform a wide range of recommendations in parliamentary reports
- informed the debates on scrutiny of a wide range of primary legislation, successfully lobbying for reforms to the Social Housing (Regulation) Act, Online Safety Bill, the Procurement Bill, and the Support Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill.
References in the Chamber:
References in Committee:
References in non-Chamber debates:
References in writing:
Funding for local government
We have helped deliver this through:
Non-Domestic Rating Bill
The Non-Domestic Rating Bill makes a number of technical alterations and changes to non-domestic (business) rates in England and Wales. The LGA has welcomed the Government legislating for a package of measures alongside revaluations once every three years, and support measures to improve valuation accuracy and timeliness – including new duties for ratepayers to notify the Valuation Office Agency of information on the calculation of their rateable value. We have also supported reforms to ‘material changes of circumstances’ because of the COVID-19 pandemic and support the changes in the Bill that will mean material changes of circumstances should relate to physical changes only. Significantly, the LGA is also in favour of the Government’s promise to consult on business rates avoidance and evasion. The LGA briefed MPs and peers throughout every stage of the Bill and will continue to support more fundamental changes to business rates.
Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill
The Economic Activity of Public Bodies (Overseas Matters) Bill seeks to remove the possibility for public bodies, including councils, to campaign against, boycott, seek divestment from, or sanction a particular territory internationally, unless endorsed by the Government’s own foreign policy. The LGA voiced concerns about the practical impacts of the Bill on the pensions and procurement activities of local authorities. We briefed on the second reading of the Bill and provided both written and oral evidence to the public bill committee to this effect. The LGA will continue to seek clarity from Government on how the proposed changes may affect pensions and procurement services.
The Procurement Bill
We engaged parliamentarians throughout the passage of the Procurement Bill to make improvements to the Bill and ensure that the new procurement regime works for councils. While many of our concerns arising from the Transforming Public Procurement green paper were addressed before the Bill was introduced, several key issues remained, including our primary concern that the Bill could significantly limit public bodies from using the current vertical and horizontal procurement exemptions. Following significant engagement with Cabinet Office and the Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe, we worked with Lord Moylan (Conservative) to table an LGA amendment to the Bill to address this issue. As a result, the Government agreed to re-consider wording of the Bill and introduced their own amendment during the Bill’s Committee Stage in the Commons which clarified that public bodies can continue to use the exemptions. We also called on Government to use the Bill to amend Section 17 (1) of the Local Government Act 1988 which currently prohibits local authorities from reserving contracts, whatever their value, to local suppliers, SMEs and voluntary, community and social enterprises to support their local economies. Government have now committed to addressing this in secondary legislation.
Timeliness of local auditor reporting
In March 2023, the LGA submitted written evidence to the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry into the timeliness of local auditor reporting. The LGA reiterated that local audit is in crisis, and that there are a number of causes to this crisis including the limited number of firms within the market and a shortage of suitably qualified auditors working for those firms. This situation has been made worse by additional work for auditors caused by tighter and stricter regulation of auditors following audit failures in the private sector. The LGA welcomed the creation of the Audit Reporting and Governance Authority as system leader as well as the appointment of a new Director of Local Audit to lead it. We also welcomed the move of the deadline for published audited local authority accounts to 30 September 2023 for six years, until the end of the next appointing period. Significantly, we called on the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities to extend the 31 May 2023 deadline to 30 June 2023 for preparing draft (unaudited) accounts for the 2022/23 year and onwards.
Financial reporting and local audit
Towards the end of June 2023, Councillors Abi Brown, Tudor Evans and Richard Wenham gave oral evidence as LGA representatives to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee on financial reporting and audit in local authorities. The inquiry was launched to scrutinise the role of audit in local accountability and democracy and the extent to which accounts provide a clear picture of the financial sustainability and resilience of a council. The session opened with Cllr Evans emphasising the crisis in audit and the difficulty of councils to talk about assurance when there is a huge backlog of outstanding audits. Cllrs Brown and Wenham also went on to highlight the complexity of accounts and the need to take caution in fixing this issue by simply simplifying the accounts.
Local authority administered COVID grant schemes
In April 2023, the LGA submitted written evidence to the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry into local authority administered COVID grant schemes. We wrote that the National Audit Office (NAO) report on COVID-19 grant schemes captured the issues with the administration of the grants well. We agreed with the NAO report that the then Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) prioritised speed over assurance, particularly for the early schemes at the start of the pandemic. From the outset, there was pressure from Ministers for fast distribution of grants to businesses, even if that meant not carrying out pre-distribution fraud checks. In our evidence, we went into detail of how BEIS prioritised delivery of the schemes as opposed to assurance and recovery. In a later inquiry session, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Conservative, The Cotswolds) highlighted the LGA’s evidence citing the split between fraud and error in the distribution of COVID grants to businesses.
Funding for Levelling Up
Following the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee’s inquiry into funding for Levelling Up, much of the LGA’s evidence was highlighted in the Committee’s final report in May 2023, including our calls to government to simplify current funding streams and reduce requirements for councils to access competitive pots. Councillor Kevin Bentley, then Chair of the People and Places Board, gave evidence to the Committee highlighting local government’s view that distributing funding via competitive bidding rounds is ineffective. He made the case that devolution offers the best value for money and called for all funding to be streamlined and allocated to areas based on need. In the final report, the Committee highlighted that levelling up funding does not adequately make up for cuts to councils’ budgets and recommended that councils that are most in need should be allocated revenue funding. They also called on Government to simplify funding streams and reduce the use of competitive bidding processes.
Local Government Finance Settlement 2023/34
During a debate on the Final Local Government Finance Settlement 2023/24, LGA Vice-President and Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Clive Betts MP (Labour, Sheffield South East) highlighted the LGA’s analysis of the funding gap in adult social care services.
Council tax and stamp duty alternatives
At a debate on alternatives to council tax and stamp duty, Simon Fell MP (Conservative, Barrow and Furness) labelled the current system as flawed and recommended a move to a proportional property tax system, and a surcharge for second homes, empty homes, and non-residential properties. Whilst the LGA does not have a formal policy on this proposal, a briefing was provided ahead of the debate on the LGA’s policy on council tax reform that highlights previous commissioned work on the question of council tax and alternatives, as well as support for the introduction of an online sales tax.
- LGA Vice-President Baroness Thornhill (Liberal Democrat) used our financial analysis in a question on council budgets for 2023/24 during a debate on budgets.
- LGA Vice-President Baroness Thornhill questioned the Government on why swimming pools were excluded from the Energy Discounts Scheme and if the Government would consider reclassifying pools and leisure centres as energy intensive, during an oral question on local councils 2023-24 budget.
- In an answer to a Written Question from Seema Malhotra MP (Labour, Feltham and Heston) on insurance, the Minister of State for Housing and Planning Rachel Maclean MP (Conservative, Redditch) highlighted the Department's engagement with the LGA to assess the challenges councils may be facing when accessing the buildings insurance market.
- In a Written Question to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Fabricant MP (Conservative, Lichfield) referred to the LGA’s engagement with the Secretary of State in discussing plans to adopt a place-based approach and return to multi-year settlements.
The future of fiscal devolution
Councillor Gillian Ford, then Deputy Chair of the LGA City and Regions Board gave evidence to the Devolution APPG as part of their one-off session on the future of fiscal devolution. Cllr Ford highlighted costs facing councils who were having to find an extra £2.4 billion this year to meet unforeseen extra inflationary cost pressures, energy prices rises, and estimated increases to the National Living Wage. Cllr Ford also highlighted the Government’s reliance on costly competitive bidding rounds, adding that councils wanted the tools and resources to tailor spending to local needs and called for a less centralised system.
Narrowing inequalities and protecting communities
We have helped deliver this through:
Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Draft Bill
The Deputy Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, Councillor Clive Woodbridge, gave oral evidence to the Home Affairs Committee on the Terrorism (Protection of Premises) Draft Bill (Martyn’s Law), as part of its pre-legislative scrutiny in June 2023. Cllr Woodbridge stated that the LGA is broadly in support of the Government’s approach and the principle of proportionality. He highlighted the new responsibilities the Bill would place on councils, including the need to collaborate with partner organisations, having to field queries from local groups on their responsibilities under the Bill, and the need to invest in skills and capacity to ensure venues are compliant with the new regulations. We also submitted written evidence to the Committee to expand on these points, and our evidence was subsequently used in the Committee’s final report.
Victims and Prisoners Bill
Before the Bill was introduced, Councillor Nesil Caliskan, then Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, gave evidence to the Justice Committee who undertook pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill. The Government introduced several of the Justice Committee’s recommendations, which Cllr Caliskan advocated for in her evidence to the Committee. These included the Victims Commissioner retaining responsibility for oversight of the Victims Code (instead of this being passed to Police and Crime Commissioners) and expanding the Bill’s definition of a victim to include children.
We also briefed MPs ahead of the second reading of the Victims and Prisoners Bill and Cllr Jeanie Bell, member of the Safer and Stronger Communities Board, gave oral evidence on our behalf to the House of Commons Bill Committee at Committee stage.
Online Safety Bill
Effective responses to destitution
In January 2023, Councillor Emily O’Brien, Deputy Chair of the LGA’s People and Places Board, gave evidence to the APPG on Ending the Need for Food Banks’ inquiry on effective responses to destitution. Cllr O’Brien set out that the national benefits system should provide the principal safety net, and that the demand for local crisis support is currently so high because the national system is not meeting people’s essential costs.
In February 2023, the LGA submitted written evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry into gambling regulation. The LGA called for more flexibility to allow local democratically elected councillors to control the number of gambling premises, if such decisions can be shown to be in the interests of the local economy and community.
Digital exclusion and the cost of living
At the beginning of March 2023, the LGA submitted written evidence to the Communications and Digital Committee’s inquiry into digital exclusion and the cost of living. The LGA reaffirmed its view that the Government should adequately resource the national benefits system so that it provides the principal safety net for all low-income households and covers households’ basic needs, which should include digital access. Our evidence was subsequently mentioned throughout the Committee’s final report.
Asylum transformation programme
At the end of June 2023, the LGA submitted written evidence to the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry into the asylum transformation programme. The LGA has been firm in arguing that the best way to meet the needs of asylum seekers and refugees is through a cross programme approach that uses, and funds, strategic and operational expertise in councils and their local and regional partners. We also highlighted in our response that we would welcome better join-up with and across the Department for Levelling up, Housing and Communities and with the Home Office’s Prevent disruptions team on addressing cohesion concerns, community tensions, on countering extremism and tackling harmful influencers.
The impact of the cost of living on the public wellbeing
In October 2022, we briefed ahead of a House of Lords debate, tabled by Baroness Drake (Labour), on the impact of the cost of living on the public wellbeing. The LGA highlighted escalating concerns over the rising costs of essentials such as fuel and food, which were pushing many households into immediate hardship.
Tackling poverty and the cost of food
In March 2023, we briefed ahead of a House of Commons debate on tackling poverty and the cost of food. Our briefing highlighted that rising inflation, stagnant wages, and benefit cuts are increasing food insecurity in the UK.
Homelessness among Ukrainian refugees in the UK
Human trafficking and modern slavery
At the end of March 2023, we briefed MPs ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on human trafficking and modern slavery. The LGA also referenced work on establishing a national network of council officers working on modern slavery to share learning and best practice and discuss common challenges of working on this issue.
Anti-social behaviour (ASB) in town centres
In April 2023, we briefed MPs ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on anti-social behaviour in town centres. We emphasised that councils are keen to protect all victims and that we recognise that anti-social behaviour has a devastating impact on communities and families. We stated that councils are looking forward to seeing more details of how the Government’s ASB action plan will work in practice, as well as how the plan will be funded.
Government migration policies
A Backbench Business Committee debate on the Government’s migration policies was moved by Dan Carden MP (Labour, Liverpool, Walton) in June 2023. The LGA has, throughout the year, briefed extensively in this area, especially in relation to the Illegal Migration Bill, the accommodation of asylum-seeking children in hotels, wider housing issues, and human trafficking. With regard to the Illegal Migration Bill, the LGA stressed throughout its passage through Parliament that the Bill adds extra complexity to areas seeking to manage pressures on local services.
Violence against women and girls in the UK
We briefed Peers ahead of a general debate in the House of Lords on ‘violence against women and girls in the UK’. We emphasised council’s commitment to tackle violence against women and girls and our willingness to work alongside police and criminal justice services, Police and Crime Commissioners, health, and education services as well as VCS to ensure they are protected from all forms of abuse.
Building safety and social housing six years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy
We briefed MPs ahead of a general debate on building safety and social housing to mark six years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy. We briefed that, with the deadline for registration of high-rise residential buildings with the Building Safety Regulator coming up in October 2023 and the new building safety regime coming into place in April 2024, stock-owning councils are still awaiting clarity on the measures that will be expected of them as part of the safety case process.
Credit unions and the cost of living
In July 2023, we briefed ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on Credit Unions and the cost of living. The briefing highlighted that the UK's financial sector historically has not catered well for many low-income households.
- In a House of Lords debate on Business and Planning Act 2020 (Pavement Licences) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2023, Baroness Taylor of Stevenage (Labour) mentioned the LGA’s long held view that councils should be able to determine costs relating to the recovery of issuing licenses post-COVID-19. She went on to ask the Government to give further consideration to this when licensing measures become permanent as part of the Bill.
- In a House of Commons debate on Building Safety and Social Housing, Paula Barker MP (Labour, Liverpool, Wavertree) asked the Government to heed the calls of the LGA that councils and fire and rescue services need clarity on what is expected of them as regulators alongside the Building Safety Regulator. She asked for updates from the Government on secondary legislation which still needed to be approved by Parliament to implement and deliver the new building safety regime.
- In an answer to a question from Lord Young of Cookham CH (Conservative) on the engagement with the tobacco industry, Lord Markham CBE (Conservative) mentioned that DHSC had written to other Government Departments who may engage with the tobacco industry to inform them of the publication of ‘Guidance for government engagement with the tobacco industry' that was published 19 June 2023. He further mentioned that a version of that guidance tailored to local authorities, developed in collaboration with the LGA would be published shortly.
APPG for domestic violence and abuse
In July, Councillor Clive Woodbridge, Deputy Chair of the Safer and Stronger Communities Board, spoke to the APPG for Domestic Violence and Abuse about the Domestic Abuse Act 2021. He first stated our support for the Act and its objectives, especially regarding its inclusion of a statutory definition of domestic abuse and the funding allocated to councils for the provision of accommodation-based support for survivors. He outlined the significant challenges that remain in this space, especially that demand for support services continues to outstrip supply.
APPG for Gambling Related Harms inquiry into the launch of the Gambling Reform White Paper
We submitted a letter to the APPG for Gambling Related Harms which stated that councils do not have the powers they need to effectively manage local gambling premises. We called for additional powers to allow councillors to restrict the opening of new gambling premises in places where it may not be appropriate to open a gambling venue.
Children, education, and schools
We have helped deliver this through:
Schools Bill (Dropped)
The LGA briefed at the second reading, committee stage, and report stage of the now dropped Schools Bill. The bill originated in the House of Lords and was dropped after the report stage in the first house. We welcomed the focus on ensuring all children get the right support at the right time, particularly in light of the pandemic's impact and the widening attainment gap. The LGA briefings supported efforts to ensure every child receives adequate support timely and emphasises the need to regularly review education catch-up funding. A notable provision of the Bill, which the LGA has long advocated for, permits councils to establish and lead multi-academy trusts (MATs).
On 2 March, the Government released the "SEND and Alternative Provision Improvement Plan" in response to the 2022 SEND Green Paper. This plan aims to:
- Enhance the potential of children with SEND or in alternative provision.
- Rebuild parents' trust in a simplified system.
- Ensure financial stability for local authorities.
The LGA briefing acknowledges the plan but notes past reforms failed to provide adequate support. They welcome standardised SEND support and clarity on funding responsibilities. Early identification and intervention are vital, but early years settings must be adequately funded. While supportive of a "test and learn" approach, the LGA expresses concern over the £70 million budget and the years-long implementation timeframe. They stress the need for local, not central, accountability, urging for increased mainstream inclusion and intervention powers for councils. The LGA also emphasises the importance of managing expectations to maintain parental confidence.
In October the Department for Education launched a second stage consultation on implementing a new further education funding and accountability system for adult skills. Our response was submitted on 12 October 2022. We previously submitted a response to the first consultation (September 2021).
Persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils
In February 2023, the LGA submitted written evidence to the Education Committee’s inquiry into persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils.
In February, the Department for Education (DfE) published its response to three reports:
- the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care (“the Care Review”)
- the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel Report on the deaths of Star Hobson and Arthur Labinjo-Hughes (“the National Panel review”)
- the Competition and Markets Authority Children’s Social Care market study (“the CMA report”).
The LGA brief outlines the content of the strategy and an initial LGA view as a basis for discussion with its members to inform the LGA’s consultation response and its ongoing work with government and partners on children’s social care reform.
Review of the Children’s social care implementation strategy and family hubs rollout
The LGA’s supplementary written evidence to the Public Services Committee’s inquiry into the children’s social care implementation strategy and family hubs rollout was published in May 2023. We detailed our role in sharing best practice with councils using a variety of mechanisms through our Children’s Sector-Led Improvement programme, as well as our commissioned research to look at the issues which need to be considered in relation to how to ensure children’s social care is able to continue to deliver effectively for families amidst structural reform.
Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)
The LGA’s written evidence to the Education Committee’s non-inquiry session on special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) was published in May 2023. We raised concerns about the sufficiency of funding providence and suggested that there must be a continuous review of the budget with a view to provide additional funding where necessary to build a strong evidence base to inform future policy development and implementation. The LGA also expressed concern over the lack of any plan to give councils additional powers to lead SEND systems effectively.
Support for childcare and the early years
The LGA’s written evidence to the Education Committee’s inquiry into support for childcare and the early years was published in March 2023. The inquiry examined how easy it is to navigate the current childcare system for parents and carers, and whether current childcare entitlements are providing families with affordable and flexible childcare. The LGA welcomed the opportunity to work with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Department for Education to ensure that the different elements of the early years offer work together coherently and streamline the system to improve its accessibility. In our evidence, we also reiterated that funding for early entitlements is insufficient, which is impacting the quality and cost of childcare provision; the sustainability of providers, and the availability of good support for children with special education needs and disabilities (SEND). The LGA evidence, specifically in relation to streamlining eligibility checks for parents, was mentioned in the Committee’s final report in July.
Independent Review of Children’s Social Care
In November 2022, Rachael Maskell MP (Labour, York Central) led a Commons debate on the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care. The LGA briefed on the debate, highlighting that councils previously expressed their commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of children and young people and that the Independent Review of Children’s Social Care acknowledged this, recognising the commendable work of councils and offering recommendations to address substantial challenges.
Affordability and availability of childcare
In December 2022, we briefed MPs ahead of a House of Commons debate on the affordability and availability of childcare. The briefing highlighted that high-quality early education is crucial for children's development and providing them with an optimal start in life.
In February 2023, the LGA briefed MPs ahead of a further House of Commons debate on the affordability and availability of childcare. The briefing emphasised that early education is vital for children's development, with disadvantaged youth falling behind their peers by 18.4 months by age 16. Underfunding of early years, combined with inflation, jeopardizes the quality and access to childcare, especially for children with SEND. Rising costs force providers to either cut services or increase fees. Local authorities report concerns about dwindling early years settings, affecting parents' accessibility. The UK's high childcare fees burden families and exacerbate poverty and gender inequality. For improved, affordable childcare, the Government should fund early years entitlements adequately, expand free childcare hours, and reform Universal Credit childcare payment rules.
Single parent families
The LGA briefed MPs ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on single-parent families. Single parents – the majority of which are women (90 percent) – and their children are more likely to be in poverty than any other type of household. We emphasised in our briefing that the national benefit system should provide the primary safety net for all low-income households and cover people’s essential living costs, which will enable councils to target local welfare support to those with the most complex needs. Ahead of the Spring Budget, we also called for:
- the universal credit cap on claiming for childcare costs to be increased in line with inflation
- claimants to be paid childcare fees upfront
- the Government to adequately fund early years entitlements to cover the cost of provision and enable providers to recruit and retain skilled early years practitioners
- the expansion of the additional 15 hours of free childcare to all three and four-year olds, to ensure the most disadvantaged children have equal access to quality early education.
Accommodation of asylum-seeking children in hotels
In June 2023, Deidre Brock MP (Scottish National Party, Edinburgh North and Leith) led a Westminster Hall debate on the accommodation of asylum-seeking children in hotels. The MP made reference to the LGA’s briefing, which emphasised that hotels are not the right place for children to be living.
- We briefed Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe (Labour) ahead of his Written Question on free school meals. The LGA has called on the Government to expand access to, and the value of, healthy start vouchers and expand the eligibility criteria for free school meals to encompass all children and young people of school age who are in food poverty.
- In an answer to a Written Question from Elliot Colburn MP (Conservative, Carshalton and Wallington) on childcare, the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing Claire Coutinho MP (Conservative, East Surrey) highlighted the Department's efforts to understand childcare challenges through discussions with the likes of the LGA.
- We briefed Baroness Chakrabarti (Labour) ahead of her Oral Question on unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.
- In an answer to a Written Question from Munira Wilson MP (Liberal Democrat, Twickenham) on school buildings, the Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb MP (Conservative, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) highlighted the Department's collaboration with the LGA in emphasising the potential risks of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in school buildings.
- In an answer to a Written Question from LGA Vice-President Catherine West MP (Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green) on teachers’ pay, the Minister of State for Schools Nick Gibb MP (Conservative, Bognor Regis and Littlehampton) highlighted the LGA's role in negotiating pay scales between teaching assistants and their employers.
- In an answer to a Written Question from Seema Malhotra MP (Labour, Feltham and Heston) on the potential merits of establishing an inquiry into missing asylum-seeking unaccompanied minors, the Minister for Immigration Robert Jenrick MP Conservative, Newark) mentioned the LGA’s inclusion in a multiagency unaccompanied asylum-seeking children taskforce, to consider strategic and tactical solutions to the issue.
- In answers to Written Questions from Rachael Maskall MP (Labour, York), the Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing Claire Coutinho MP (Conservative, East Surrey) and the Minister for Mental Health and Women’s Health Strategy Maria Caulfield MP (Conservative, Lewes) noted their Departments’ work with the LGA “to consider how we can better work together to deliver children’s social care and health services for children with the most complex needs.
Places to live and work
We have helped deliver this through:
Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill
We briefed throughout various stages of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. Our briefings highlighted the bill acts upon long running asks from councils and the LGA for further devolution in England.
Supported Housing (Regulatory Oversight) Bill
We briefed MPs and peers at various parliamentary stages of the Supported (Regulatory Oversight) Housing Act 2023. We supported the introduction of the Bill which aimed to address longstanding gaps in the regulation of supported housing. Specifically, we called for references to the LGA to be replaced with local authorities, as they are the main delivery partners for the Bill and, as such, should be consulted directly. As a result, this change was made during the Bill’s final stages in the House of Commons. Throughout the Bill’s scrutiny, we also highlighted that the Bill would place considerable additional responsibilities on councils, and they must be given adequate new resources for the Bill to be effective.
Houses in Multiple Occupation (Asylum-Seeker Accommodation) (England) Regulations 2023
In May 2023, the Lords debated the Houses in Multiple Occupation (Asylum-Seeker Accommodation) (England) Regulations 2023. The LGA briefed peers ahead of the debate on the Regulations, which will temporarily exempt Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMO) accommodation for asylum seekers from all HMO Regulations for two years, to outline councils concerns with the proposal. The LGA’s position on various issues was mentioned throughout the debate.
Social Housing (Regulation) Act
We briefed across various stages of the Social Housing (Regulation) Act as it went through Parliament.
National planning policy reforms
Councillor James Jamieson, then LGA Chairman, gave evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee’s inquiry into the national planning policy reforms. Cllr Jamieson made a number of recommendations, including calling on Government to revoke permitted development rights; bring forward the planning skills strategy as soon as possible; allow councils to set planning fees at the local level and strengthen requirements for climate change mitigation and adaption. The Committee’s final report highlighted that there is a pressing need for additional resource in local planning authorities and call on Government to publish a comprehensive resources and skills strategy for the planning sector.
Sustainability of the social housing sector
Councillor Pippa Heylings, then Deputy Chair of the LGA’s People and Places Board, gave evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee’s inquiry into the finances and the sustainability of the social housing sector. Cllr Heylings highlighted that councils Housing Revenue Accounts are facing unsustainable financial pressures, which are making it increasingly challenging for councils to deliver across all priorities, including regenerating stock and building new homes.
A creative future
Following the Digital and Communications Committee’s inquiry examining future challenges for the creative industries, the LGA’s evidence was referenced in the Committee’s final report, At risk: our creative future, in January 2023.
Plan for jobs and employment support
Councillor Toby Savage, Vice Chair of the LGA’s City Regions’ Board, gave oral evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry into the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) plan for jobs and employment support in January 2023. Cllr Savage explained that the current national system is too fragmented and struggles to be responsive to local needs, identifying that the Department’s reluctance to share data with local authorities is a key barrier to schemes working effectively on the ground. The LGA’s evidence was subsequently mentioned in the Committee’s final report, specifically in relation to Jobcentre Plus and the Kickstart scheme.
Reforming the private rented sector
Following the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee’s inquiry scrutinising the Government’s proposals for reforming the private rented sector as set out in its White Paper, the LGA’s evidence was referenced in the Committee’s final report, Reforming the private rented sector in February 2023.
Housing solutions for homeless households
The LGA submitted written evidence to the APPG for Ending Homelessness and the APPG for Housing Market and Housing Delivery joint inquiry into housing solutions for homeless households in March 2023. The LGA highlighted its continued concerns with the use of permitted development rights (PDR) to deliver homes.
Commission on the Future of Employment Support
In our submission to the Commission on the future of employment support, the LGA advocates for a transformative approach to employment support in the UK. Recognising that the DWP isn't the sole player, the LGA underscores the crucial role local governments and devolved authorities played during the pandemic, aiding businesses, the vulnerable, and jobseekers. Such partnerships should be enduring, not merely crisis induced. The LGA suggests a comprehensive strategy, both nationally and locally, to engage employers from various sectors, such as Work Local.
The future of social housing
We briefed MPs ahead of a debate on the future of social housing. Throughout the debate, several MPs including LGA Vice-President Mike Amesbury MP (Labour, Weaver Vale), Alex Cunningham MP (Labour, Stockton North) and Justin Madders MP (Labour, Ellesmere Port and Neston) highlighted the LGA’s call for Government to empower councils to deliver 100,000 social homes a year.
Private Rented Sector
We briefed MPs ahead of a debate on the Government’s White Paper: A Fairer Private Rented Sector. During the debate, LGA Vice-President Natalie Elphicke (Dover, Conservative) highlighted our view that we also need action to make housing more affordable, alongside the measures in the white paper, to improve security in the private rented sector.
Building safety and social housing
We briefed MPs ahead of a debate on building safety and social housing. During the debate, Sarah Olney MP (Richmond Park, Liberal Democrat) raised our concern that the building safety levy is unreasonably burdening social landlords and having the direct impact of disincentivising new house building. She also highlighted our support for an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which would have exempt local authorities from paying the levy.
In a debate on affordable housing, Vicky Ford MP (Conservative, Chelmsford) quoted LGA figures that put almost 95,000 households in temporary accommodation across the country and said the LGA had repeatedly raised concerns about permitted development rights allowing developers to convert premises into houses without having to provide any affordable housing.
Bidding process for Levelling Up funding
LGA Vice President Mike Amesbury (Labour, Weaver Vale) highlighted the LGAs analysis, during a debate on the bidding process for Levelling Up Fund Round 2.
Cost of living and the private rented sector
Government support for leisure centres
The LGA briefed Charlotte Nichols MP (Labour, Warrington North) in December 2022 ahead of her Adjournment Debate on Government support for leisure centres. Referencing our briefing, Ms Nichols outlined the significant funding pressures public leisure facilities and services are facing due to rising energy costs and wider inflationary pressures.
Swimming pools funding
In a debate on swimming pools, leisure centres and sports grounds, Jeff Smith MP (Labour, Manchester, Withington) referenced the LGA's figures on funding for swimming pools.
In February 2023, we briefed MPs ahead of a debate on the report from the National Plan for Sport and Recreation Committee: ‘A national plan for sport, health and wellbeing’. The LGA called on government to set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector – including gyms and sports facilities – to help navigate the energy crisis across 2023, reclassify swimming pools and leisure centres as energy intensive as part of Energy Bills Discount Scheme, and set out a “plan for the growth” for the sector by aligning the proposed new Sports Strategy with the Spring Budget.
- In an answer to a Written Question from Lord Clement-Jones (Liberal Democrat) on the Digital Phone Advisory Group, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Minister for AI and Intellectual Property) Viscount Camrose (Conservative) highlighted the LGA's influence on BT's Digital Voice service.
- In an answer to a Written Question from Alison McGovern MP (Labour, Wirral South) on swimming pools, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) Stuart Andrew MP (Conservative, Pudsey) highlighted the Department's engagement with the LGA on the provision of swimming pools.
Devolution abroad and in England
The Devolution All Party Parliamentary Group, which the LGA supports, held a session considering international examples of devolution and assessing the performance of devolution in England. Councillor Marianne Overton MBE, Leader of the LGA Independent Group and Vice Chair spoke to the group on behalf of councils, alongside an international panel of speakers. Cllr Overton outlined the success of devolution and benefits to local communities where it has taken place in England and urged government to ensure it is extended further, faster and to more places. Highlighting LGA commissioned research, Cllr Overton said that the UK is an international outlier and one of the most fiscally centralised countries in the developed world.
Strong local democracy
We have helped deliver this through:
Draft Voter Identification Regulations
The Draft Voter Identification Regulations 2022 was debated and passed in the House of Commons and House of Lords in December 2022. In our statement, we called on the Government to delay the regulations until after the May elections as we have concerns over the readiness of new IT systems, being able to properly test these and ensure staff receive training. In addition, new voter ID requirements will require comprehensive local awareness campaigns, which councils need to be adequately funded for to tailor awareness raising efforts with the needs of their local population. In debates in both Houses, a number of MPs and peers raised our concerns about the timing of the implementation of the regulations.
Future of the UK constitution and devolution
MPs debated the future of the UK constitution and devolution in March 2023, with the LGA also providing a briefing. The LGA has long called for genuine devolution to local areas. We believe that greater fiscal freedom, the power to raise more money locally and have greater control over how this money is spent in local areas is a crucial part of this process.
State of local government in England and the case for the reinvigoration of local democracy
In June 2023, we briefed peers ahead of a debate on the state of local government in England and the case for the reinvigoration of local democracy. The LGA’s priorities and objectives in this area were mentioned throughout the debate, notably by Baroness Hayman of Ullock (Labour), who highlighted the LGA’s asks that the Government review the process of electoral registration from end-to-end, amongst other priorities.
In a House of Commons debate on Voter ID, the LGA’s engagement with the policy area was referred to by Helen Morgan MP (Liberal Democrat, North Shropshire) and Alex Norris MP (Labour, Nottingham North).
Alex Norris MP (Labour, Nottingham North) highlighted the LGA’s warnings to Government that there was not enough time to safely implement voter ID schemes in time for May or for those without ID to get a voter authority certificate.
- We briefed peers ahead of a question asked by Lord Rennard (Liberal Democrat) on the number of registered voters who have acquired Voter Authority Certificates (VAC). The LGA called on the Government to closely monitor the VAC process, including incomplete applications and rejections, and we would be keen to see transparency about this data and the success of the system as part of the Governments review of Voter ID.
- In an answer to a Written Question from Baroness Scott of Needham Market (Liberal Democrat) on candidates in elections, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Conservative) highlighted the LGA's work on supporting, promoting and attracting more people with disabilities to stand for council elections.
- In an answer to a Written Question from the Earl of Lytton (Crossbench), Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Conservative) referenced the LGA’s ‘Be a Councillor’ campaign to increase the diversity of councillors by encouraging and supporting more people to stand for election.
- In a Written Question from the Earl of Lytton (Crossbench), the LGA’s engagement with local service delivery and place-shaping to support parish and town councils was mentioned.
- In an answer to a Written Question from Rachael Maskall MP (Labour, York), Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Local Government and Building Safety) Lee Rowley MP (Conservative, North East Derbyshire) highlighted the work of the LGA’s Improvement team and noted our provision of “bespoke support to councils by networks of LGA regional advisers and the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny.”
Sustainability and climate action
We have helped deliver this through:
Decarbonisation of the power sector
We responded to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s inquiry into the decarbonisation of the power sector. The submission outlined how councils will need to play an increasingly prominent role in energy systems planning and called on Government for a deliverable plan to achieve net zero in every community. Echoing our call for greater investment in energy efficiency, in their report the Committee called on Government to bring forward all funding allocated for energy efficiency 2025-28 and prioritise delivering a locally co-ordinated programme of energy efficiency and home retrofit. We also submitted evidence to the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry into decarbonisation of the power sector. The Committee recommended Government develop a long-term delivery plan to improve investor confidence and focus on reducing energy demand, echoing the LGA’s evidence.
Air quality targets
We submitted written evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry into indoor and outdoor air quality targets.
The impact of environmental regulations on development
The LGA’s written evidence to the Built Environment Committee’s inquiry into the impact of environmental regulations on development was published in June 2023. In our evidence, we outlined support for the principle of biodiversity net gain (BNG), which provides a key opportunity to maximise natural green capital and deliver multiple benefits for councils and the local communities that they serve. We also urged the Government to take urgent action to address nutrient and water neutrality as serious environmental issues.
A flexible grid for the future
In July 2023, the LGA submitted written evidence to the Energy Security and Net Zero Committee’s inquiry into a flexible grid for the future. With more than 300 councils in England having declared a climate emergency with many aiming to be net zero before the Government’s target of 2050, the LGA has primarily asked Local Partnerships to update the Renewable Energy Good Practice Guide which suggests when and how to engage on grid connections when developing renewable energy projects.
- LGA Vice-President, Baroness Bennett (Green) highlighted in a Written Question the LGA’s Coastal Special Interest Group's Coastal Landfill Survey Report which found that coastal landfill sites are at risk of spilling waste into the sea.
- In Written Questions to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Paula Barker MP (Labour, Liverpool, Wavertree), asked what conversations the Government was having with the LGA on the Homelessness Prevention Grant and support for Ukrainian refugees.
- In a Written Question to the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Ruth Jones MP (Labour, Newport West) asked the Secretary what conversations they have had with the LGA on the support local government needs to improve air quality.
The role of local government in reaching net zero
We briefed MPs ahead of a debate on the role of local government in reaching net zero. During the debate, Simon Lightwood MP (Wakefield, Labour/Co-op) referenced our briefing and echoed our call for local leaders to have more financial autonomy and longer-term funding settlements to deliver net zero.
Over the past year, I have had the pleasure of championing the issues that matter most to councils in Parliament. As President of the LGA, I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the team at the LGA, councils, LGA parliamentary vice-presidents and all those in Parliament with an interest in local public services. Together, we have sought to ensure that the views of local government were represented in both Houses.
As the Levelling and Regeneration Bill made its way through its Parliamentary stages, I have promoted the value of empowering local communities with more decision-making powers. I have also been proud to campaign for our valued leisure facilities which improve the mental and physical health of our nation. The LGA secured £100 million for the National Leisure Recovery Fund during the COVID-19 period, and I'm delighted that together with partners, we secured a further £63 million to help swimming pools during a period of incredibly high energy bills.
This report provides an incisive analysis of the LGA’s cross-party work in promoting councils’ priorities in Parliament and demonstrates why local leadership rather than top-down solutions matter. The LGA’s work in Parliament is extremely invaluable, especially in facilitating discussion between local and national politicians on key issues. I am grateful to all the local councillors who have demonstrated thought leadership as they informed the work of several select committees in Parliament and helped to provide valuable scrutiny to public policy.
Along with LGA vice-presidents and other parliamentarians, I have valued the quality briefings and reports from the LGA over the past year. The LGAs contribution makes a significant impact and offers robust evidence base for our work in scrutinising the government’s activities. My parliamentary colleagues hold the LGA in high regard, recognising its advocacy and local leadership.
I look forward to continuing to work with LGA vice-presidents and other parliamentarians as we shape the coming Parliamentary session and ensure that it reflects the councils’ priorities across the board.