Looking ahead - Group Leader's Comment - 31 March 2017

Our thoughts are with the families of those who died and those who were injured in this week’s shocking attack on our Houses of Parliament.

Our thoughts are with the families of those who died and those who were injured in this week’s shocking attack on our Houses of Parliament.  We live in a troubled world but we must not allow this to be an excuse for limiting our democratic rights to express diverse views. Our Independent Group members realise better than anyone how difficult it is to get clear thinking infused into dominant national parties. It would be so convenient sometimes if we would go away and leave it to the bigger parties. But we won’t because we know we can find solutions at local level which they cannot.

This is my last missive as we go into purdah in County Council elections and then on in the LGA Independent Group Leadership elections.  Many thanks indeed to you all for your kind support during another busy year, which has enabled us to achieve so much together. Thank you to my Deputy Peter Reeve and Treasurer Bob Dutton, both with wisdom and experience contributing so much to the success that our growing cross-party group has enjoyed. Our appointment of Sarah Woodhouse to head our group office is reflecting very well on our group. Thanks to Sarah, Vanessa and Noleen for their effective industry.  Thanks also to the members of our Group Executive who worked with us to ensure fair geographic and political support and representation in all that we do and to our Member Peers. Thanks to all who have served valiantly on the LGA's Boards or contributed through the think tanks. Together we communicate well with members, listen, think carefully and present well-crafted solutions to many issues facing us in local government. Our heavy pressure on the government calling for funding for social care, was successful in the announcement of an extra £2bn funding package for councils in England. The Chancellor of the Exchequer also announced that the Welsh Government will receive an extra £200m to be spent in Wales on devolved matters as a result of the measures contained in the Spring Budget. We will be vigorously continuing our campaigns for proper funding for all councils.

We set out to ensure we raised the profile and reputation of our Group, which happily over the last few years has also resulted in overall election success, positioning us currently as the third largest group in the LGA.  We have done that by making sure our members are well briefed, skilled and contributing to shaping government policy through the LGA.  Thank you for your work responding to my bulletins, taking part in the monthly information and development seminars, regional and national conferences, the task groups and writing in the first magazine and media.  Your contributions have directly informed the work of the Boards and thus press and parliamentary briefings, they have been well used by councillors, Ministers and members of both Houses of Parliament in making the case for councils. Our timely and well considered contributions to national debates have been backed by first-hand examples, and directly brought benefits to our councils and our residents.

Early on, I initiated the annual document for every council that outlines “What has the LGA ever done for us”, which is just about to be re-issued to every council.  I hope you will find it useful as it backs up anything you are doing with the LGA.  Our own Independent Group achievements will be released ready for the Annual report and the AGM on July 4th. There is a lot more we can do, building on our successes.

All our group members focus on residents. That is our recipe for success and what makes us so hard to beat. I am standing in my County seat this time. If you are standing or supporting others in the forthcoming elections, I wish you much good luck and look forward to seeing you back in growing numbers, strengthened with residents’ voices ringing clearly in our ears!