With the Brexit Deal or No deal in turmoil, the parties enter their conferences to set out their stall for the forthcoming year.
Our Independent Group is supporting our members at all the conferences within our Group and encouraging new members. This week alone, I attended the UKIP conference and the London Assembly. I met many of the leaders, and most importantly provided support to our councillors, aldermen and prospective councillors, working their socks off in their communities. Isle of Wight, Green Party and Plaid Cymru are next and we have our main autumn conference for the Independent Group at the LGA on Friday 23 November in London. Why not make a weekend of it?
New this week was the announcement from the Government’s Office for National Statistics, calculating the housing need in the current circumstances. They took the current house prices as an indication of demand and looked for trends over the past 10 years, not 20 as was previously done. That excludes the boom years, prior to the economic crash.
They have produced new estimates for each council area, indicating an overall drop of around 25%. These are based on house prices as an indication of demand and on population changes. Since councils use that figure as a foundation in your Local Plan, it may be that your next review (five years from publication of the plan) will show a reduction in the requirement for growth.
So does it matter? If our Local Plans for growth are unrealistically high, it can make it hard to demonstrate that our plans are fit for purpose and that makes it hard to resist further new development proposals. The point of planning is to get development in the most appropriate places, and not allow a free for all for big multinational developers at the expense of local quality of life. We want to build communities not just housing estates. I am calling for a lower, more realistic number of dwellings. There still seems to be a party-political drive to just "get more houses built" but we are calling for new houses to be the right kind to match local needs, affordable, in the right places and with matching facilities and services.
One positive aspect of the revised NPFF is the inclusion of new student housing in the calculations of delivery of the plan, used in estimating your five year land supply. Councils will be recalculating their rate of delivery and land supply and waiting in case there are further announcements from central government.
Colleagues and I have submitted our comments on the Autumn Budget Statement, laying out our stall for what we would like to see, especially on funding the shortfall, housing, Brexit, the environment and adult and children's care.
In National Recycling Week, our members are taking a lead in influencing the new Waste and Resources Strategy that is about to be announced. I worked with Cllr Rachel Eburne who represented the LGA at a round-table meeting with Secretary of State, Michael Gove. We are looking at ways of making design, collection and recycling more efficient. Do you think your council has found a good process? Have you got a working example of innovation in reducing waste that we can usefully promote?
Colleagues and I have been taking a look at our Group's Constitution and at the varied ways in which we engage with you. I look forward to hearing your views. Thank you to those who responded to the LGA’s Adult Social Care Green paper. The consultation has now closed and I’m sure the findings will be a fascinating read. Wishing you all the very best in all you do for our residents and our member councils.
If you are an elected member in England, you should have received an email inviting you to take part in the 2018 Councillor Census. Thank you very much if you have already responded. If you haven't, we would be really grateful if you could respond, as the findings inform the LGA's practical support to authorities and councillors, and are of real use to central and local government and political parties in the development of strategies and policies. Given the scale of support from councillors, past surveys have provided the most comprehensive, timely overviews of local government representation and how that has changed over time. The deadline for responses is Monday 1 October. For more information or if you have any problems accessing the survey, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Regional meeting invites are being sent out to all members, details also available on our website.
Information and Development Seminar: Monday 22 October, London. Join us for an interactive session on Election Readiness with The Campaign Company.
Independent Group Conference: Friday 23 November, London. Book now.