Group Executive - Group Leader's Comment - 25 January 2019

Thanks to our Independent Group Executive, which met this week to help drive LGA policy and directly question the Under Secretary of State for the Department of Exiting the European Union, Kwasi Kwarteng.

I asked for the £35 million set aside to assist us with preparing for Brexit to paid in advance, when it was needed, rather than afterwards, and an announcement is expected on Monday. I also raised the issue of bureaucratic arrangements for temporary migrant workers, who are critical to the picking and processing of our food. In answer to a question from Councillor Wayne Davies, Kwasi Kwarting made clear his intention to put a deal to the House, with a solution on the backstop deal about the Irish border.

The Group Executive looks at each Board in turn and this time it was Councillor Bob Jennings who gave an excellent review of his work on the People and Places Board, including directly connecting with the wider membership through his think tank. Councillor Clarence Barrett was representing us on the Brexit Board and his written submission on the work of the complementary City Regions Board was tabled. The work is really interesting and gives you a chance to directly influence what goes on in the LGA and Government. Depending on your council, you may want to join the City Regions or People and Places Think Tank.

As you know, funding from Government grants is being phased out and replaced in part by us being able to keep our own business rates, but shared out between councils. The discussion of what would be a fair way of sharing it out is in full swing now and you can read the LGA response to the Government consultation. Discussion has centred on what criteria to include in the foundation formula to demonstrate how much each council needs. See what you think about the LGA response for all member councils and you may want to check and support your own council's response as well. Please let us know what you think.

Councillor Helen-Ann Smith from Ashfield raised the issue of costs of the new waste strategy, including a weekly food collection and three bins at every property. The strategy identifies new burdens for which we require funding from central government. An update on the strategy was shared in a previous bulletin and the Environment think tank will be asked for its views on the Government’s proposals shortly, with a formal consultation due shortly.

At Leadership Board, we agreed to sign the Modern Slavery Statement which is probably on your council agenda too, and it makes a useful opportunity to encourage your council on some important issues.

At Group Executive, the responses to our consultation on the Group’s constitution were tabled and a report goes to the Executive in March, led by Councillor Alan Seldon.

Our next consultation is on how you would prefer to engage with us and is now live. Please respond to the quick consultation on how we can better support and communicate with you by 31 January and you could be the winner of an Amazon voucher.

We started the year with the priority of increasing engagement with our members, to better understand local issues and how national changes in funding or legislation can help; also to enhance effectiveness of our members making sure they are informed and equipped to contribute fully to their communities, their councils and nationally through the LGA to improve life for our residents.

Annual review of local government

The summary of activity to date is impressive, thanks to all our members for their terrific commitment and hard work to make it possible.

Melanie Dawes MP was in front of the Government Select Committee this week answering questions on the performance of the Ministry of Communities, Housing and Local Government in 2017-18 in providing good local government. The LGA has provided data on our response to the Grenfell tragedy, including the rehousing of people affected, and measures to reform building regulations and improve fire safety. The LGA’s Fire Services Management Committee is chaired by Independent Group member, Councillor Ian Stephens.

The review also investigated the adequacy of the local government financial settlement and the effectiveness of policies on Help to Buy, Right to Buy and social housing.

Three "Be a Councillor" events were very successful this week, in Epsom, Aberystwyth and in Bexhill-on-Sea. In Bexhill, I was able to open the event by congratulating them on winning two by-elections in a big way, despite relentless Conservative party campaigning. You may have already seen the figures and coverage on our Twitter page, also here.

It is the right time for good local Independent Group candidates to win. Almost everything that affects our local residents is under the control or influence of our local councillors. It is the right time for people to turn their backs on central government party controls and focus on what matters locally. For that, we need good local Independent Group members in power right where we live. We need you and we need more of you! Our Group website now has a new Campaign Corner with useful materials. Please feel free to contribute by email to the office.

Wishing you well as you get good candidates and good campaigns into place. For those without elections this year, would you like to help out elsewhere? Just let us know.

Thank you very much indeed for all your vital work in support of our communities. Good luck with everything.

Dates for the diary

LGA Independent Group regional meetings
Our regional meetings start early February. You’ll have received an invite to your local meeting and reminders will be coming out shortly. Find out details of your meeting on our website.

Independent Group reputation and brand learning and development seminar
15 February 2019 | London
The LGA Independent Group will be holding a free workshop on reputation and brand management, led by the LGA’s Director of Communications, David Holdstock.

5 February 2019 | Durham
The LGA’s People and Places Board has established the Post-Brexit England Commission to broaden its understanding of the issues and opportunities facing the towns, villages, rural, deeply rural and coastal communities of non-metropolitan England in the coming years.

LGA Business Rates Retention and Fair Funding Review consultation
8 February 2019 | Leeds
11 February 2019 | Birmingham
Consultation documents have been published on the next stage of the implementation of further business rates retention and the Fair Funding review, for implementation in April 2020