Welcome to our Local Government Association (LGA) in Parliament report for 2021/22. As the voice of local government, the LGA continues to engage parliamentarians on the various issues impacting councils and promote the value of local leadership to create sustainable growth, improved public services and a stronger society. We are pleased to provide an update on our engagement with MPs and Peers.
The LGA is the national voice of councils. A vital part of our role is working with parliamentarians as we seek to inform debates, the scrutiny of legislation that affects local government and shape the reports of select committees and All-Party Parliamentary Groups.
The LGA benefits from a significant profile in Westminster. In the 2021-22 parliamentary session we were quoted 592 times in Parliament.
To help deliver this we have:
- Briefed for 56 parliamentary debates and 39 debates on legislation, securing support from MPs and Peers for our campaigns and policy positions.
- LGA representatives appeared before 30 parliamentary inquiries and we have produced 47 written submissions to inquiries to help inform a wide range of recommendations in parliamentary reports.
- Informed the debates on scrutiny of a wide range of primary legislation, successfully lobbying for significant reforms to the Building Safety Act and securing a consultative role for local government in any future NHS reconfiguration through our briefings on the Health and Care Bill.
References in the Chamber:
- We were mentioned 89 times on the floor of the House of Commons, and 169 times on the floor of the House of Lords.
- We were mentioned five times in oral answers given by Ministers in the Commons, and 17 times in the Lords.
- We were mentioned six times during exchanges on Ministerial statements in the Commons, and 10 in Lords.
- We were mentioned four times during urgent questions in the Commons, and five times in the Lords.
References in Committee:
- We were mentioned 74 times during Public Bill Committee sessions, and eight times during Delegated Legislation Committees.
- We were mentioned 78 times during oral evidence sessions at Select Committees.
References in non-Chamber debates:
- We were mentioned 37 times in Westminster Hall debates in the House of Commons.
- We were mentioned 54 times during Grand Committee debates in the House of Lords.
References in writing:
- We were mentioned 31 times in written questions or answers tabled in the Commons, and seven times in the Lords.
- We were mentioned in two written Ministerial statements laid before the Commons.
Funding for local government
We have helped deliver this through:
- LGA’s Deputy Chief Executive, Sarah Pickup, gave evidence to the Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Public Bill Committee. In addition, during the Second Reading of the Act, Seema Malhotra MP (Labour, Feltham and Heston) referenced our briefing and called on the Government to work closely with councils and the LGA to make sure that that guidance is as clear as possible. Responding, the Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Paul Scully MP, assured MPs that the Government will work with the LGA and councils to develop clear guidance so they can get the money for business rates relief out as quickly as possible.
- Non-Domestic Ratings (Public Lavatories) Act was granted Royal Assent last year. At Lords Second Reading, Lord Greenhalgh Minister of State, Home Office and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said that the Government will publish the final local authority guidance as soon as the Rating (Coronavirus) and Directors Disqualification (Dissolved Companies) Bill receives Royal Assent. The Minister added that the Government is engaging very closely with the LGA on ensuring that the Government gets the guidance right. In the Third Reading in the House of Lords, the Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Lord Greenhalgh and LGA Vice-President Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Labour) thanked the LGA for their “helpful advice, guidance and support” during the passage of the Bill.
- We responded to the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry on the timeliness of local government audit. The Committee’s final report referenced the LGA’s evidence throughout and it was pleasing to see the Committee amplify our concerns relating to the ongoing problems around the late delivery of audit opinions and the fragility of the local audit market, as well as its long-term viability.
- We responded to the Public Accounts Committee’s inquiry on the local government finance system: overview and challenges. The Committee’s final report used our evidence to highlight problems with councils receiving too many grants often attached with a competitive bidding process.
- LGA Vice-President and Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Clive Betts MP (Labour, Sheffield South East) raised concerns that the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement was published as a Written Ministerial Statement, and asked whether following a briefing from the LGA there would an opportunity for the Secretary of State to come to the House and take questions on the Statement.
- During a debate on local government finance, Sir Bob Neill MP (Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst) called on the government to move away from single-year settlements to enable local authorities to be able to plan their budgets on long-term basis.
- In a debate on the Autumn Budget and Spending Review, Mary Glindon MP (Labour, North Tyneside) used LGA’s On-The-Day briefing to highlight that the Spending Review makes no mention of whether local government will receive a three-year financial settlement, or whether and when local government reforms will be implemented.
- During a debate on the Final Local Government Finance Settlement 2022/23, LGA Vice-President and Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Clive Betts MP (Labour, Sheffield South East) highlighted comments from our Chairman, Cllr James Jamieson, who had noted in a Select Committee session “that we cannot sort out local government finance until we sort out social care funding”. Later on, Mr Betts echoed our calls for a multi-year settlement next year so councils can plan ahead.
- At a debate on the extension of the Business and Planning Act 2020 (Pavement Licences) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021, Shadow Planning Minister Ruth Cadbury MP (Labour, Brentford and Isleworth) highlighted a number of the concerns we set out in our briefing on the proposals, namely that the cost of issuing pavement licences often far exceeds the £100 cap local authorities can charge.
- The APPG on Devolution hosted an event on Council Funding, attended by Parliamentarians and local government stakeholders.
- The impact of COVID-19 was at the centre of discussions during the LGA annual local government finance conference in January. The webinar heard from Kemi Badenoch, the former Minister for Levelling Up Communities, Mike Amesbury, former Shadow Minister for Local Government, as well as speakers from the LGA, IFS, and WPI Economics.
Narrowing inequalities and protecting communities
We have helped deliver this through:
- We engaged with Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Act, since its introduction in Parliament. We supported the private members Bill introduced by Peter Gibson MP (Conservative, Darlington) which seeks to improve the licensing regime and safety of passengers in taxis and private hire vehicles. We however called for the database that the Bill would mandate to be the NR3, as it is widely in place and widely used by licensing authorities. Throughout the Bill’s passage numerous MPs highlighted our support for the Bill, our recommendations for comprehensive taxi licensing reform, and our role in establishing the NR3 database. While we are still awaiting confirmation, we understand that Government will proceed with mandating use of the NR3. We are also pleased that they have listened to our calls on comprehensive taxi licensing reform, and will be introducing measures through the Transport Bill.
- We briefed MPs ahead of the Second Reading of the Animal Welfare (Kept Animals) Bill, which includes a range of provisions to improve the welfare of kept animals, including farm animals, companion animals, and kept wild animals. During the debate, several MPs highlighted our concern that council licensing teams are already under significant pressure, with reduced capacity to undertake the proactive inspection and enforcement activity that would be needed to effectively deliver the new duties in the Bill. We will continue to engage with parliamentarians regarding the Bill as it is re-introduced this Parliamentary session.
Cllr Jeanie Bell, LGA licencing champion, gave evidence to the Home Affairs Committee inquiry on Spiking. We also submitted written evidence to the Committee, in which we highlighted councils’ role in tackling spiking through the licensing system; the need for sustainable local funding so that all local areas can invest in comprehensive multi-agency initiatives to tackle spiking and called for a range of measures including to improve reporting of spiking incidences and the emergency response. The Committee referenced our recommendations throughout their final report and highlighted the need for additional funding for councils to tackle spiking.
Cllr Jeanie Bell also gave evidence to the Lords Liaison Committee’s follow-up inquiry into the Licensing Act 2003. Cllr Bell told the Committee that while most of those working with the Act do not want to see major upheaval of the system, there are some areas that warrant reform, including the introduction of localised licensing fees and the inclusion of a public health objective in licensing. She also called for the Government to give councils urgent clarity on the future of the gov.uk licensing platform. The Committee were supportive of raising licensing fees to ensure the Act is sustainably funded, and they committed to raising the uncertainty around the gov.uk platform in their forthcoming report to Government.
- At a debate on the safety of women and the regulation of pedicabs in London, LGA Vice-President, Florence Eshalomi MP (Labour, Vauxhall), used our briefing on safety of women and the regulation of pedicabs in London for the debate and echoed our support for proper regulation and licensing of pedicabs. Ms Eshalomi also highlighted that the LGA wants to see the NR3 database, which we funded the development of, to be the chosen database for this purpose.
- Stephen Morgan MP (Labour, Portsmouth) referenced the LGA and highlighted our lines on digital exclusion at Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Questions.
- Following our briefing, Lord Rosser (Labour) highlighted our lines on Violence Reduction Units and asked when they are going to be extended to the remaining police force areas, during a question on youth knife crime.
- Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board spoke at a joint meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Sport and the APPG for the Olympics and Paralympics to discuss securing the future of sport and leisure facilities. Following the publication of our report, ‘Securing the Future of Public Sport and Leisure Services,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson highlighted the challenges facing our public sport and leisure infrastructure, and stressed the need for a capital investment programme. Cllr Vernon-Jackson also discussed our recommendation for the new Office of Health Improvement and Disparities to integrate public sport and leisure facilities into health systems and pathways to boost public health and relieve the burden on the NHS and social care services, which was supported by others on the panel.
Children, education and schools
We have helped deliver this through:
- Ahead of Committee Stage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the House of Lords, we briefed parliamentarians on a discrepancy in policy and legislation, which precludes councils from running secure 16-19 academies. During the debate, Lord German quoted the LGA and highlighted that councils should be enabled to apply to run secure schools given their expertise in education, secure schools, and young people’s social services. While the issue was not rectified during the course of this Bill, the Schools Bill is set to allow councils to establish multi-academy trusts, which we have been calling for, and will provide a resolution.
- Cllr Lucy Nethsingha, Lead Member of LGA’s Children and Young People Board gave evidence to the Public Services Committee inquiry on child vulnerability. We also submitted written evidence as part of this inquiry. The Committee’s final report used our evidence to highlight our views on the Supporting Families Programme and why we would encourage Government departments to submit ‘joint bids’ to HM Treasury’s Spending Review process.
- We submitted written evidence to the Work and Pensions Committee inquiry on no recourse to public funds and child poverty. In the Committee’s final report, our evidence was used to illustrate how continuing to extend the use of the no recourse to public funds (NRPF) condition prevents some EEA nationals from being able to access means tested benefits and how councils are not reimbursed for the costs of support for those with NRPF.
- Nicholas Brown MP (Labour, Newcastle upon Tyne East) and Chair of the Education Committee, Robert Halfon MP (Conservative, Harlow) held a debate on school-based counselling services. In line with the briefing the LGA produced ahead of the debate, Mr Halfon and Paul Blomfield MP (Labour, Sheffield Central) echoed our calls for the roll out of counselling services to all state-funded schools, which would provide access to a school counsellor for at least two days a week for more than 90 per cent of schools.
- In a debate on developing a cross-government strategy for children and families, LGA Vice-President, David Simmonds MP (Conservative, Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner) highlighted the LGA’s report on “Rewiring Public Services”.
- In a debate on the Queen’s Speech in the House of Lords, Baroness Massey of Darwen (Labour) highlighted the LGA’s Child-centred recovery report and voiced our call for a holistic approach to support children and families.
- The previous Minister for Children and Families, Vicky Ford MP, highlighted the LGA’s work with the Government on the SEND Review.
- LGA Vice-President and former Shadow Minister for Local Government, Mike Amesbury MP, raised the LGA’s analysis that the cost of children's social care will increase by an estimated £600 million each year until 2024-25, in a parliamentary written question.
- LGA Vice-President and former Shadow Minister for Local Government, Mike Amesbury MP, referenced the LGA’s report ‘Agreeing to disagree? Research into arrangements for avoiding disagreements and resolving disputes in the SEND system in England’ in a written question.
Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board gave evidence to the APPG for Youth Affairs follow-up inquiry on youth services. In her remarks, Cllr Bramble highlighted the importance of local authorities in the delivery and commissioning of youth services, and noted that even prior to the pandemic, youth services had been impacted financially. Cllr Bramble made the case that it is important that the Government provides long-term sustainable funding to the sector and forms a cross-Government strategy that puts children and young people at the heart of recovery.
Places to live and work
We have helped deliver this through:
- This year also saw the Building Safety Act gain Royal Assent. The LGA worked to strengthen the Bill on behalf of councils and residents. Throughout the passage of the Bill in both Houses, we continued to share our priorities for the Bill with decision makers and stakeholders, emphasising the need to secure confirmation that Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans for disabled residents would be appropriately considered; to protect leaseholders from spiralling costs; to protect Housing Revenue Accounts from remediation cost; and to exempt the local authorities from the Developer Levy. The LGA worked extensively with our President, Baroness Grey-Thompson (Crossbench) and Vice-President Baroness Brinton (Liberal Democrat) as well as Baroness Sue Hayman (Labour) and others during the various stages of the Bill. As a direct result of our engagement, the responding Minister Lord Greenhalgh gave assurances that Government would undertake a new consultation, including a proposal called “emergency evacuation information-sharing” or EEIS and referenced to the LGA’s work with Baroness Brinton and Baroness Grey-Thompson.
- After engagement with the LGA, Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee and LGA Vice-President wrote to the former Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Communities and Housing, Michael Gove, following the department's announcement on 13 April of an agreement with the housing industry to contribute £5 billion to address building safety issues. The correspondence echoed several of the concerns outlined by the LGA in relation to the Government's announcement, including whether the funding and building safety levy will cover non-cladding as well as cladding issues, how social housing providers will be affected, and the steps being taken by the Government to make other sectors, beyond developers and construction manufacturers contribute.
- We engaged with Parliamentarians throughout the passage of the Skills and Post-16 Education Act, to press for councils and Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) to be given a strengthened, strategic role in the legislation, to work with employer representative bodies to design and deliver local skills improvement plans. In the House of Lords, several peers tabled LGA amendments to the Bill and an LGA amendment, tabled by Lord Watson of Invergowrie (Labour), which would have secured a role for councils to work ‘in partnership’ with employer-representative bodies (ERBs) gained cross-party support and passed. During the Commons stages, several MPs including Toby Perkins MP, the Shadow Minister for Further Education and Skills, and Munira Wilson MP, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Education, advocated for a strengthened role for councils in the Bill and Government’s skills reforms. Ultimately, the Lords amendment on partnership working was rejected by the Government during the Bill’s Committee Stage in the Commons. In its place, the Government provided a stronger role for MCAs in the reforms, which provides a route to a strengthened role for councils through devolution.
- The Leasehold Reform (Ground Rent) Bill, moved by Lord Greenhalgh and sponsored by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities was brought forward in 2021. In our briefing to MPs , we welcomed the Bill and the Government’s will to introduce legislation that will restrict ground rents on newly-created long-term properties. We also highlighted the significant role that councils will play to enforce the new legislation and made the case for new funding to ensure that this is deliverable.
- The Home Secretary, Priti Patel MP, highlighted the LGA’s work with the Home Office to develop a new way of working with councils to deliver asylum schemes, while giving evidence to the Home Affairs Committee.
- The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee ran an inquiry into building safety, which the LGA has submitted both written and oral evidence to, with Cllr Rachel Blake, the LGA’s Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board member providing evidence. The key points made in both the written and oral submissions were that councils should be exempt from the developer Levy; that a distinction must be drawn between social housing providers and councils in all instances; and that adequate protections for disabled residents must be provided.
- The Chair of the LGA’s Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board, Cllr David Renard, gave evidence to the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee inquiry into social housing. Cllr Renard appeared alongside other sector representatives including Nick Murphy, Chief Executive Officer of Nottingham City Homes and Chloe Fletcher, Policy Director at the National Federation of ALMOs. The themes covered in the session included promoting the views of tenants, the condition of housing stock, the Housing Ombudsman and regulator, and financing social housing. Cllr Renard made the case that the vast majority of social landlords are responsible and provide decent housing to tenants, with 94.3 per cent of homes meeting the Decent Homes Standard. He outlined the LGA’s long track-record in developing and delivering a sector-led improvement support offer to councils and urged for a system-wide review of the total resourcing requirements for the social housing sector. The LGA was invited to give oral evidence to the committee following our written submission in December.
- The Built Environment Committee published their report, Meeting the UK's Housing Demand. The LGA gave oral and written evidence to this inquiry, which is highlighted throughout the report. As we outlined in our press release, we were pleased to see cross-party momentum behind councils’ historic campaigning work on social and affordable housing supply and a locally-led, well-resourced planning system. We made the case that going forward, councils must be given the powers and resources to build 100,000 much-needed social homes a year to help the Government meet their target of 300,000 new homes annually. Our point that developers also need to be incentivised to build housing more quickly, with over 1 million homes given planning permission in the past decade not yet built, was also cited in the report.
- We gave evidence to the Lords Committee on Youth Employment, which outlined councils key role and expertise in the skills and employment system. In our response, we called on Government to trial our Work Local Model, and emphasised that councils, with the right flexibilities and resources, could do much more to create an integrated skills and employment system and boost employment outcomes for young people. The Committee adopted our recommendation and called on Government to implement Work Local in their report.
- During a debate on the role of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) in the recovery of the visitor economy, Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Conservative) highlighted the LGA’s response to the Independent Review of Destination Management Organisations, and echoed our view that councils should be given the powers to reinvest money generated from local tourism back into their destination.
- In a debate on the Queen’s Speech, former Prime Minister Theresa May MP (Conservative, Maidenhead) raised concerns about the Government’s proposed planning reforms and highlighted that the role of developers has not been addressed, referencing the LGA’s figure that one million homes have been given planning permission but have yet to be built.
- LGA Vice-President Clive Betts MP (Sheffield South East, Labour) moved a Westminster Hall debate on transport in urban communities, for which the LGA briefed. We made the case that public transport in urban and rural settings needs central government revenue funding in the absence of local tax raising powers; outlined that further long-term certainty over funding will improve the value for money central government and local authorities get; and that decisions should be made locally around bus service franchising, public transport fares, funding, and improvement to services. Contributions came from across the House, with Mr Betts making the case that powers extended to Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) regarding transport should be expanded to mayoral urban areas, while Gill Furniss MP (Sheffield, Brightside and Hillsborough, Labour) outlined the importance of bus usage to social wellbeing and community prosperity. Responding, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Transport, Trudy Harrison MP, closed the debate by detailing the Government’s investment in bus, tram and light rail totalling at £2 billion and that the Government had negotiated an extension to the current recovery funding packages, providing more than £150 million in extra support to the local transport sector.
- A Westminster hall debate took place on high rise building remediation, which the LGA shared lines with MPs ahead of. The LGA raised concerns that the Government has not drawn a distinction between councils and developers in the Building Safety Act, which will cost local authorities money.
- We also saw an Opposition Day debate on non-commissioned exempt accommodation take place, an issue the LGA continues to prioritise through engagement with select committees and with Ministers. Our joint open letter with Commonweal Housing to the Secretary of State also received significant coverage. Ahead of the debate, we shared lines with Parliamentarians outlining that a minority of unscrupulous non-commissioned providers are able take advantage of the higher rents that can be charged for exempt accommodation to maximise financial gain for private investors. We also highlighted that the LGA wants to work with the Government to remedy this situation and made the case that we need a thorough review of supported housing funding, including support costs when a person does not meet the threshold for social care support and addressing the subsidy gap that councils with housing responsibilities face.
- Shabana Mahmood MP (Labour, Birmingham Ladywood) hosted a Westminster Hall debate on exempt accommodation which the LGA briefed MPs on. During the debate, MPs noted that there is a ‘lucrative loophole’ that allows some providers to access more money per tenant under exempt accommodation rules while providing substandard or no service. This is a point made by the LGA in a written evidence submission to the LUHC committee inquiry into exempt accommodation. In closing the debate, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Eddie Hughes MP outlined that the Government are determined to tackle the problems that have dogged the sector and said that DLUHC would “not rule out the use of legislation if that proves to be the most important tool that we could deploy”, mirroring a key LGA ask.
- We also briefed Peers for a debate on the situation of leaseholders who are facing bills for remedial work and the need for safe, green and affordable housing. The discussion focused on concerns around remediation costs faced by leaseholders, the close links between fire safety and climate resilience and the demand for affordable homes. LGA Vice-President, Lord Shipley (Liberal Democrat) noted LGA figures on social housing waiting lists, advocating the need for more homes at affordable rent.
- The LGA also briefed for a debate on fire safety in retirement communities, moved by Kevan Jones MP (Labour, North Durham). In his opening remarks, Mr Jones set out the need for effective evacuation plans in buildings housing those more vulnerable to fire risks. He also highlighted the importance of considering fire safety in the construction of buildings; and the need to strengthen the Building Safety Bill to establish a review of construction industry payment practices.
- There was also a debate on the role of developers, housebuilders and management companies in new homes. Ahead of the debate, we briefed MPs, outlining that planning is not the barrier to housing delivery given that nine in 10 planning applications are approved by councils yet remain unbuilt. We also emphasised that councils need the tools to both require and incentivise landowners and developers to build high quality homes and raised concerns about the implications of Permitted Development Rights (PDR) for local places. During the debate, Matt Western MP (Labour, Warwick and Leamington) cited LGA analysis relating to the number of planning applications approved by councils that remain unbuilt. Mark Francois MP (Conservative, Rayleigh and Wickford) also cited LGA analysis relating to extant planning permissions for new properties. In his closing remarks the responding Minister, Eddie Hughes MP, confirmed the Government’s commitment to carefully consider planning reforms through the lens of levelling up which was evidenced in the Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill published 11 May 2022.
- The LGA briefed MPs ahead of a House of Commons debate on fire risk in high rise social housing. Andy Slaughter MP (Labour, Hammersmith), cited the LGA’s concerns around the need for manufacturers to bear responsibility for the safety of electrical goods. In line with the LGA’s asks, LGA Vice-President Florence Eshalomi MP (Labour, Vauxhall) backed our calls to ensure that councils and fire services are given effective powers to ensure that residents are safe.
- We briefed MPs ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on ending rough sleeping. The debate focused on the lessons learned from the ‘Everyone In’ programme during the pandemic and the further interventions needed to tackle homelessness. Leading the debate, LGA Vice-President Layla Moran MP (Oxford West and Abingdon, Lib Dem) highlighted the LGA’s calls for a cross-departmental strategy to help tackle rough sleeping, and the need for ongoing dedicated local authority funding. LGA Vice-President and former Shadow Local Government Minister, Mike Amesbury MP (Labour, Weaver Vale) praised the work done by local authorities as part of ‘Everyone In’ and stressed the importance of building council and housing association homes to tackle homelessness.
- At a debate on the impact of government policies and funding on the creative sector, Lord Berkley of Knighton (Crossbench) highlighted the LGA’s proposal to make capital funding available for councils to convert disused retail units on the high streets into creative studios that would help local creative businesses to develop and thrive.
- At a debate on the measures needed to support the UK Tourism Industry to recover from the pandemic, Lord Snape (Labour) highlighted the LGA’s proposal to introduce a tourism levy, which would allow money generated by tourism to be reinvested back into communities.
- LGA Vice-President, Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Labour) raised a question in the House of Lords on building and fire safety. Ahead of the question, the LGA met with Lord Kennedy to discuss building safety and our key asks for the Building Safety Bill which was approaching Report Stage at that time. In his question, Lord Kennedy highlighted to the Minister that despite confirmation from the Government that leaseholders living in buildings over 11 metres will be protected from all cladding remediation costs, there are still significant unresolved general building safety issues with some leaseholders left in ‘appalling situations'. Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Minister, Lord Greenhalgh, responded by setting out that leaseholders who are liable to pay for some non-cladding costs will have those capped in a way similar to Florrie’s Law.
Cllr Rachel Blake, LGA’s Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board member represented the LGA at a parliamentary in person event, organised by the Mayor of London’s office, alongside other stakeholders to discuss strategy for Report Stage of the Building Safety Bill.
Strong local democracy
We have helped deliver this through:
- We supported the objectives of the Local Government (Disqualification) Act, which updates the disqualification criteria for local authority members (Councillors, Mayors of Combined Authorities, the Mayor of London and London Assembly Members) to explicitly disqualify individuals who are subject to relevant notification requirements or orders due to sexual offences from standing for or remaining in office. We agree that it is right that individuals convicted of sexual offences outlined in the Act should be disqualified from running for public office or retaining their seat if already elected.
- In Committee Stage of the Elections Bill, Baroness Scott of Bybrook (Conservative) highlighted our work with the Government on the allocation of the new-burdens funding.
- LGA Chairman Cllr James Jamieson and LGA Labour Group Leader Cllr Nick Forbes, this year gave in-person evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee inquiry into the Future Governance of the UK. They spoke extensively on the importance of defragmenting local government funding as part of the levelling up agenda. They made the case for ensuring place-based decision making as opposed to a one-size-fits-all policy approach and called for a culture change across Whitehall that would place local authorities on an equal footing with government departments, given their track record of delivery as trusted partners during the pandemic. Cllr Jamieson and Cllr Forbes stressed that the Levelling Up White Paper presented an opportunity to reset the relationship between central and local government and put councils at the heart of delivering the Government’s ambitious programme to improve opportunities in all parts of the country. The session was recorded and can be watched back on Parliament TV.
- In a debate on the online abuse of elected women representatives, the MP leading the debate, Maria Miller MP (Conservative, Basingstoke) thanked the LGA for providing a briefing on the issue and highlighted our concerns that people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, members of the LGBT+ communities and those with disabilities are also being disproportionately targeted in online abuse. Closing the debate, the Digital Minister Caroline Dinenage MP assured the House that the Online Safety Bill will “protect women and all users online” and added the Bill would be read “later in the year”. The Online Safety Bill has since been published, which the LGA supports overall.
- The LGA briefed MPs ahead of a debate on the levelling-up agenda in Parliament. The debate centred on what levelling-up means in practice and what the Government's policy objectives should be. Contributions from members focused on the major areas of inequality in their respective constituencies and where they felt investment would be most beneficial, with several MPs highlighting councils’ roles in driving forward local economic growth.
- LGA Vice-President and Chair of the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee, Clive Betts MP (Labour, Sheffield South East), asked what discussions the Secretary of State for Levelling Up had with the Local Government Association on the emergence of Omicron and the number of councils who have had to (a) cancel meetings, (b) restrict attendance and (c) reduce items for discussion in an attempt to reduce the risks of transmission. The former Minister for Local Government, Kemi Badenoch MP, said that she held a roundtable where representatives of the LGA attended and a webinar to which all local authority Leaders and Chief Executives were invited where the issue of remote meetings was raised.
- LGA Vice-President, Tim Farron MP (Liberal Democrat, Labour, Sheffield South East) asked the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, whether his Department had made an assessment of the implications for its policies of the results of the LGA’s survey of councils, conducted before the emergence of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, on the impact of returning exclusively to in-person local authority meetings. The former Minister for Local Government, Kemi Badenoch responded by confirming the Department is reviewing the responses to the consultation and the Government will respond shortly.
- LGA Chairman, Councillor James Jamieson, joined an expert panel at an event hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Devolution to discuss the UK’s compliance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government. Other speakers included John Howell MP; Councillor Alison Evison, President of COSLA; and Dr Arianna Giovannini from De Montfort University. Cllr Jamieson concluded by advising that the LGA stands ready to support the Government in levelling- up our communities and that councils are best placed to align the work of government departments and agencies with the assets and opportunities of different places.
- The Devolution All-Party Parliamentary Group, which the LGA supports, held an event with Minister Lord Greenhalgh to discuss the recommendations of the APPG's report Levelling-up Devo.
Sustainability and climate action
We have helped deliver this through:
- The Environment Act gained Royal Assent in 2021. The LGA worked extensively with MPs and Peers during the passage of the Environment Bill to provide information and research on implications for local government. We also supported Parliamentarians by drafting and tabling a series of amendments and worked to influence decision makers to secure favourable outcomes for councils and garner cross-party support for amendments that were in the interest of local government.
- At a Board level, through the Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board and the Improvement and Innovation Board, the LGA established an open-ended Climate Change Task Group to steer the strategic engagement with Government on climate change matters during the UK’s COP26 presidency and beyond. The Group continues to promote the interests of local communities and the leadership role of councils, in partnership with national government, as we work together to meet the Net Zero ambitions.
- The LGA submitted both written and oral evidence to the Public Bill Committee for the Environment Bill. The LGA primarily used this as an opportunity to raise concerns about the new burdens that will be imposed on councils.
- Cllr Rachel Blake, member of the LGA’s Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board, appeared before the Environmental Audit Committee as part of their inquiry on mapping the path to net zero. Throughout the session, Cllr Blake emphasised that the role of councils will be critical in achieving net zero and that they stand ready to work in partnership with Government.
- The LGA briefed MPs and Vice-Presidents ahead of a debate on COP26 and air pollution. We highlighted air pollution as the largest environmental risk to public health, outlined the measures needed to effectively decarbonise transport and noted the importance of local government in achieving these ends.
- The LGA briefed MPs ahead of a House of Commons debate on the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) 2021 Progress Report. The briefing highlighted the unique and powerful leadership and delivery role that councils play in achieving net zero and adapting to climate change.
- The LGA briefed MPs ahead of a House of Commons debate on reducing plastic waste. The debate focused on the environmental impact of plastic pollution, how we can ensure that more plastic waste is recycled, and what steps should be taken to reduce the amount of plastic waste being produced.
- Ahead of a Westminster Hall debate on COP26 priorities, we briefed MPs and highlighted the leading role that local government plays in accelerating the shift towards achieving net zero.
- Cllr Pippa Heylings, the LGA’s COP26 lead and member of the Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport board, attended an important parliamentary event run by Dods Group titled ‘Beyond COP26’ alongside the former Secretary of State Michael Gove MP and former Prime Minister, Theresa May MP. The event was the first in a series and was orientated around 'place'. Cllr Heylings highlighted councils’ track record of delivery when it comes to achieving net zero as well as the support required by councils to facilitate further efforts to combat climate change and provided an overview of the LGA’s actions at COP26. The series of events was followed by an in print special report published in The House magazine in March, rounding up the discussions that took place over several weeks.
- The Devolution All-Party Parliamentary Group held a session on devolution’s potential for reaching net zero. Mayor Philip Glanville, member of the LGA Environment, Economy, Housing and Transport Board joined a panel of speakers and highlighted the work that councils are already doing to cut emissions, the power they hold to reduce emissions in the future and the steps that Government should take to empower councils to go further. This includes funding them to tackle the impacts of climate change in local places and devolving responsibility for skills to councils so that they can deliver the 1.1 million green jobs that could be required by 2050.
This year the LGA rose to the challenge in supporting the local government response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. We have helped deliver this through…
- The Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee held a one-off session on support for Ukrainian refugees with LGA’s Chairman, Cllr James Jamieson; LGA’s Chief Executive, Mark Lloyd, and LGA Principal Policy Adviser, Sonika Sidhu. The session was an opportunity to highlight the amount of work already going on in local government to support new arrivals. Committee members heard from our witnesses on councils’ key priorities on a range of issues including the quality and breadth of data councils are receiving on sponsors and new arrivals; the need for further guidance on accommodation and safeguarding checks; what happens in the event of sponsorship breakdown; and any additional funding which may be needed.
- Cllr Jamieson also used LGA survey data to highlight the number of arrivals presenting as homeless. Following the session, LGA Vice-President and Chair of the Levelling Up Committee, Clive Betts MP (Labour, Sheffield South East),questioned the Prime Minister at a Liaison Committee session on the arrival scheme. The Prime Minister said he would look at local authority funding to support those on the family scheme and stated that there is no reason why councils should not have access to more data. The session also received widespread media coverage, including BBC News, and raised by the Shadow Minister for Local Government, Mike Amesbury, in an Urgent Question. Demonstrating the cross-party support for our calls, the following week, the data was used in a House of Lords debate on Ukrainian refugees by Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (Crossbench) and Lord Coaker (Labour).
- We briefed Peers ahead of a debate on Ukrainian refugees. Baroness Helić (Conservative) opened the Ukraine: Refugees debate by urging the Government to intensify their efforts in six areas in particular. The six areas identified included expanding the visa schemes so that they are as broad and generous as is possible and safe; protecting arrivals from trafficking by enhancing safe guarding and DBS checks; ensuring there is comprehensive and ongoing support for arrivals; maintain support for Ukrainians in Europe by offering additional funding to UN agencies, NGOs and directly to Ukraine’s neighbours; apply the lessons learnt from the crisis to refugees elsewhere; and in the long-term prevent citizens from having to flee their countries in the first place. Later in the debate, Baroness Finlay of Llandaff (Crossbench) and Lord Coaker (Labour) cited LGA survey data which found that 144 Ukrainian households are presenting as homeless to 57 different councils. Lord Piddick (Liberal Democrat) asked the Government whether the £10,500 was enough, and highlighted that this funding is only available for those on the Homes for Ukraine scheme, although those coming via the family route will also need access to council services. Responding to the debate, the Minister for Refugees, Lord Harrington of Watford, said that £10,500 was expected to cover all support including mental health support, but said that if there were trauma cases, the Government would look to provide extra money for this.
- We briefed MPs ahead of a general debate on Ukraine. During the debate, MPs across the House praised their constituents for their efforts to support those arriving in the UK, whether it is through donations or offering their home to those fleeing the devastating war. A number of MPs also noted concerns they had regarding the Homes for Ukraine scheme and the family visa scheme. LGA Vice-President Daisy Cooper MP (Liberal Democrat, St Albans) highlighted that her local council was not getting the data it needed from those arriving under the Homes for Ukraine scheme, and noted that no funding had been provided for those arriving under the family scheme. Ruth Cadbury MP (Labour, Brentford and Isleworth) shared our concerns regarding the number of those arriving under the Family scheme presenting as homeless. Similarly, former Shadow Local Government Minister, Mike Amesbury MP, used LGA analysis from last month which notes the number of Ukrainians arriving to the UK and presenting as homeless. The former Shadow Minister called on the Government to provide funding for councils to support those arriving on the family scheme and raised our concerns regarding accommodation checks, asking the Government for further guidance. Closing the debate, Minister for the Armed Forces said that Zelensky’s heroic leadership has brought Ukraine to a place where I think they can win. He added that “the UK, the US and our allies around the world will make sure that that is the case.”
- During a statement on the Ukrainian Sponsorship Scheme, former Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP, highlighted our work with the Government on the scheme.
- LGA Vice-President and Chair of the Home Affairs Committee Dame Diana Johnson MP (Labour, Kingston upon Hull North) also used the homelessness data to ask the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities what steps the Department is taking to ensure that local authorities are aware of all the residents in their area who have registered interest in the sponsorship scheme. The Minister for Rough Sleeping and Housing, Eddie Hughes MP, said that local authorities have access to information on those who have applied for visas under the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
- Baroness Randerson (Liberal Democrat), in a question on Public Transport: Refugees, asked the Government whether they will reimburse local transport authorities for additional costs incurred when Ukrainian refugees apply for and are granted: a Freedom Pass, Oyster 60 Plus card, Zip Oyster card, or other similar travel concessions. The Transport Minister, Baroness Vere of Norbiton said that within London, transport is devolved to the Mayor of London, including decision-making responsibility about any concessions offered; she added that Local Transport Authorities outside of London can also choose to introduce further concessions if they choose.
It has been a wonderful first year as President of the LGA and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with the team at the LGA, councils, LGA parliamentary Vice-Presidents and all those in Parliament with an interest in local public services. Together, we have sought to ensure that the views of local government were represented in both Houses.
As ever, this report provides an incisive view of the LGA’s cross-party work to promote the views of local government and demonstrates why local leadership matters, particularly during a period of significant uncertainty for the country. I know first-hand of the invaluable work of the LGA in Parliament, especially in promoting local leadership and helping to facilitate discussion between local and national politicians on key issues. It has also been pleasing to witness the thought leadership provided by local councillors as they help our Parliament to shape policy on the national level and I am grateful to all the local leaders who have provided their experiences and knowledge when bringing evidence to Parliament.
I, and other Parliamentarians, continue to value the quality briefings and reports from the LGA which illustrate the vital role of councils in society and bring a strong evidence base that is essential in helping Parliament in its role scrutinising national government. A good number of my parliamentary colleagues across all parties speak highly of the LGA and value it’s advocacy for local leadership and very few days go by in the House without LGA analysis, ideas and recommendations being quoted in a parliamentary debate or a select committee report. This profile is vital in ensuring councils, their aspirations and their concerns are well represented.
As President of the LGA, it has been a pleasure to promote issues that matter most to local communities, ensuring that our health and care services are sustainable and well-funded, highlighting the value of our local culture, leisure and tourism sectors and the urgent need for a post pandemic recovery and promoting the important issue of building safety, particular for vulnerable residents in high-rise residential buildings. On the latter, I will continue to work to ensure that the needs of our most vulnerable residents our considered, when making emergency evacuation plans and further mitigating this particular risk to fire safety.
I look forward to continuing to work with the LGA Vice-Presidents as we shape the coming Parliamentary session and ensure that levelling up becomes a reality in every area, with councils having the powers and funding they need to make our towns and communities attractive and vibrant places to live, work and visit.