International Women's Day - Group Leader's Comment- 8 March 2019

The LGA has produced a toolkit aimed at helping those who have other responsibilities, such as looking after children, caring for an older relative or who want to start a family, to be councillors and represent their communities.

Dear colleagues,

The sad loss of our elected Independent Group Treasurer, Clarence Barrett, was remembered with a minute’s silence at our Group Executive and at the cross party full Councillor Forum. The Minister for Housing and Local Government, James Brokenshire MP, spoke warmly of his work with Clarence over the years and his admiration of his professionalism, commitment and expertise. A number of us shall be attending Clarence's funeral later this month and we are collating all of the kind comments we have received into a book for the family. If you have some words you would like included or would like details of the funeral please contact Sarah in our Group Office. 

Our Independent Group Executive met this week and worked further on the Constitution that will be going to our AGM in July. We welcomed new members, who bring additional expertise, links with parish and town councils and further strengthen the diversity of our team. Cllr Claire Wright started as she means to go on by tackling the Minister on funding for local services and the delayed adult social care Green Paper.

Our work on Fairer Funding for Councils and to raise the proportion of business rates kept by all councils to 75 per cent was discussed at our LGA Leadership Board and Executive meetings yesterday. We called for a fairer system of collecting business rates to include more online businesses to ease pressure on High Streets. The working group has started to create a vision of what impact the options would have on councils and clear improvements are expected. 

Minister James Brokenshire talked about the new £1.6 billion fund available to improve town centres, picking up the point that it was spread over a number of years and biased towards bigger conurbations, rather than our local high streets. Councillors were also concerned that it may be allocated to LEPs rather than councils.

City and town mayors were in strength at the first ever UK French Summit held at the Southbank Centre this week, with a preview the night before at Lancaster House, where we met the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jeremy Hunt MP. I was surprised to learn there are already 1,100 French-English twinning examples already in place and a third of a million people living in each other's countries. 

The strategy on waste was discussed in a previous bulletin and the Government’s consultation is now open and being discussed via our think tank. If you would like to join in but do not yet belong to the think tank or would like to separately make comments, please send these to the Group Office by the end of March. Cllr Colin Mann has pointed out that Wales is well advanced with recycling rates as high as 65 per cent, based on weekly collections, while England is stuck on averaging less than 45 per cent. Please have your say.

I'm meeting councillors in Cornwall this week, who do a great job leading Cornwall in a shared coalition.

If you are standing for election, you will have noticed there is a new form which means you can choose to keep your private address private.

There has also been a Select Committee recommendation that we should be subject to a code of conduct at all times, whereas currently it is only when acting on council business. We may want to campaign differently to council policy and need to keep the right to a separate voice. Thanks to Cllr Mervyn Head who has researched the issue and enabled us to successfully fight to keep the right to a private life when the code of conduct was reviewed in North Kesteven District Council. We have an example letter for your monitoring officer if you are in this situation.

I hope you can make good use of this information in seeking councillor candidates or writing to the press.

Finally, today is International Women's Day and I have led the LGA's press work on this. The LGA has produced a toolkit aimed at helping those who have other responsibilities, such as looking after children, caring for an older relative or who want to start a family, to be councillors and represent their communities. You can find out more by watching this video.

Good luck and best wishes in all you do.

Councillor Marianne Overton MBE
Leader of the Independent Group
Vice Chair of the Local Government Association

Dates for your diary

15 March - LGA Independent Group information and development seminar on the Spring Statement.
Please note this meeting has been postponed. Instead we will share an update on the Spring Statement via video next week.

18 March, 11am - 3pm - LGA Independent Group Regional Meeting in Bury St Edmunds

19 March, 12 -3pm - LGA Independent Group Regional Meeting in Brighton

4 April - LGA Waste Consultation event, LGA, London 

5 April - Wales Regional Meeting, Denbighshire

All Independent Group events can be found via our events page

All LGA events can be found here