The Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement, which was announced last week, contained a number of positive announcements for the sector: extra resources for some councils to cancel the ‘negative RSG’ adjustments to tariffs and top-ups, £180 million of surplus on the levy account distributed to all councils, fifteen new councils selected to pilot 75 per cent business rates retention, and £16 million in additional funding for rural authorities.
I was also delighted that the Government decided not to increase the new Homes Bonus threshold next year as this represents a significant funding source, particularly for shire districts, as well as being an incentive to sustainable development in local communities.
The Settlement also needs to be viewed in the context of the recent Budget, which contained various welcome announcements such as an extra £410 million in 2019/2020 for adults and children’s social care, £420 million for roads, £400 million for school equipment and facilities, £675 million for a Future High Streets Fund and a further £500 million for the Housing Infrastructure Fund.
The LGA will be responding formally to the Provisional Settlement by stressing the significant funding pressures that councils still face whilst continuing our lobbying work in relation to the widely anticipated Social Care Green Paper and the Spending Review, both of which have the potential to put local government finance on a sustainable long-term footing. In the meantime, you can read our briefing on the Settlement here.
Further good news is of course the announcement by the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds, stating that councils will receive an additional £250 million over the next two years to provide much needed support for children and young people with complex special education needs and disabilities. This is a funding issue the LGA has lobbied for throughout 2018, so the additional funding is welcomed.
Looking ahead to next year, we have the largest set of local elections in the four year cycle with 8846 seats being contested, of which 4952 are currently Conservative-held, representing 57.5 per cent of current Conservative councillors.
In normal circumstances the excellent work Conservatives are doing at the local level would translate into good results, particularly given the problems that Labour has. However, recent events in Westminster have not been helpful and I would call upon all Conservatives, regardless of their personal views on the ‘B’ word, to present a united front.
With this being the last bulletin of 2018, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year!
Cllr James Jamieson
Leader, LGA Conservative Group
Conservative Group lead members activities
Our Group Leader, Group Executive and Conservative members of the various LGA governance bodies take time out of their busy schedules to meet with ministers and key policy makers on a regular basis and lobby on your behalf. Here are some of their recent activities over the last month:
- Cllr Peter Fleming, Chairman of the LGA Improvement and Innovation Board, gave evidence to the Commons Science and Technology Committee on digital government. Cllr Fleming said good local services rely on effective data sharing and he highlighted how councils are continually improving their use of data.
- Lord Porter spoke at a parliamentary reception to mark the centenary of the introduction of voting rights for some women.
- Cllr Martin Tett, Chairman of the LGA Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board, appeared on BBC News to discuss the Government’s new Resources and Waste Strategy.
- Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the LGA Community Wellbeing Board, was interviewed on various media platforms, including BBC Breakfast, following BBC analysis which found that spending on care for the over-65s has fallen by a quarter.
- Cllr James Jamieson and Lord Porter met with key Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) Ministers to discuss current issues.
LGA Conservative Group briefing seminars
The LGA Conservative Group, in conjunction with the CCA, is organising a series of political briefing seminars across the country. The next seminars will be held on:
- 25 January 2019 in Cambridge – the programme is available here
- 1 February 2019 in Devon
- 28 February 2019 in Kent
We will be sending out invitations for these events in due course, but if you wish to register now or have any questions please feel free to contact us.
Fair Funding Review
The LGA has published another Fair Funding Review modelling tool, to help you analyse how changes to funding patters could affect your council or authority. The new model allows you to consider the effects of setting time limits, annual change limits, or a combination of these methods. These tools will hopefully help inform policy discussions or help you consider proposals of your own.
If you have any queries about the modelling tools works, please contact the Business Rates Team.
Modern slavery: first responders
The Home Office has launched its consultation into the role of “First Responders” to modern slavery. These are organisations that can refer suspected victims of people trafficking and modern slavery to the proper authorities, which includes councils. The review is focusing on which organisations should be First Responders and how staff at these organisations are trained to perform this role.
If you have any experience with being a First Responder please do get involved. The consultation is in the form of two online surveys (one for First Responders and one for “non-First Responders”) and will run until late January 2019. Any questions, please email the Home Office or our LGA Policy Advisor Jessica Norman.
Future Place is a new programme aiming to unlock place-making potential at local level through quality in design, future thinking, and knowledge sharing.
For the first phase, local authorities are invited to put in writing their overarching vision (emerging or finalised) for an area and how they are currently working across their programmes to deliver the wider ambitions of the local authority by creating great places.
Joint submissions from adjoining local authorities are welcomed. The deadline for the first phase is 22 January 2019 – more information can be found here.
EU Settled Status Scheme
The Home Office has published a toolkit for councils and community groups about the EU Settled Status Scheme, which you may find useful. It includes a briefing pack and a range of materials to help you communicate with and support EU citizens if they require further information about this scheme.
The LGA is working closely with the Government to monitor the financial health of Interserve, a major construction and facilities management services provider to councils and schools. Currently, Interserve is confident its transformation programme remains on track and it expects a significant improvement in its financial performance. If your council has contracts with Interserve, the LGA’s advice at this stage is to ensure your contingency plans are up to date.
Please contact Tina Holland if you would like further advice.
The House of Commons Library has published a briefing paper on housing delivery in England this month, which contains best practice examples of the innovative work councils are doing to deliver homes in their areas.
The House of Commons Library regularly publishes briefing papers that are topic for those working in local government, so it may be useful to sign up to receive these briefings online.
LGA Councillors' Forum
The LGA holds a regular Councillors' Forum. This is a cross-party meeting which discusses topical issues related to local government. Please click here to download the agendas for the meeting.
In addition, the Conservative Group holds a political meeting before the Councillors' Forum where we often welcome MHCLG and other Government Ministers. These meetings are therefore a good opportunity to discuss important political issues in closed session.
All Conservative councillors are welcome to attend the Councillors' Forum and the group meetings. If you wish to do so please email [email protected] or call us on 020 7664 3264.
The next Councillors' Forum will take place at 12.30pm on Thursday 24 January 2019, with the Conservative Group meeting starting at 11am.