I am writing this preview of the Conservative Party Conference in September at the end of yet another extraordinary week in Westminster.
After a series of contentious votes on Brexit, a General Election is looking increasingly likely, and may even have been called by the time you are reading this. If that is the case, this conference will undoubtedly have a very different feel to any that I have previously attended.
“Councillors are the backbone of our party, so let us make sure that our voice is heard loud and clear
While it will inevitably be dominated by Brexit and discussions over electoral strategy, for those of us in local government it will also provide a great opportunity for Conservative councillors to come together and discuss some of the key issues we are facing.
For many councillors, this will be their first opportunity to meet Secretary of State, Robert Jenrick MP, and the other new members of his team at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG): Housing Minister Esther McVey MP; Luke Hall MP, the Minister for Local Government; and Viscount Younger, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the House of Lords.
As usual, we will be sponsoring the Conservative Councillors’ Association’s (CCA) question and answer session with the MHCLG ministerial team. This will take place from 12.45pm to 2pm on Tuesday 1 October. To attend this meeting, you will need to be a CCA member and register your attendance with the CCA beforehand at its stand in the Councillors’ Lounge.
Later that day, we will be holding our two main events of the conference. Our fringe meeting, which we are organising in partnership with political and community consultancy Curtin&Co, will discuss: ‘Why is the Queen’s Speech important for local government?’
This will take place in Exchange 10 of Manchester Central from 4pm to 5.30pm. I am delighted to be speaking at this event, which will be chaired by our LGA Chairman, Cllr James Jamieson, alongside Luke Hall MP, Emma Norris, Director of Research at the Institute for Government, and Martin Curtis, the former Leader of Cambridgeshire County Council and Associate Director of Curtin&Co.
Following our success in securing significant additional funding for local government in the recent Spending Round, this will give an ideal opportunity for us to discuss how we can work with the Government to secure further powers and freedoms for our communities.
Later that evening, Cllr Jamieson and I will be hosting our LGA drinks reception from 8pm to 9.30pm in Charter 4 (Manchester Central). I am delighted that Robert Jenrick has confirmed his attendance at this event, which is always a great opportunity for Conservative councillors to mix informally with colleagues from around the country.
In addition to these two events, Conservative members of the LGA’s policy boards and I will be speaking at a large number of events organised by our partner organisations throughout the conference.
Further information about these events, which will cover a wide variety of subjects ranging from reducing rough sleeping to achieving more devolution to securing the future of adult social care, will be included in a guide that will be circulated at the end of September.
I am looking forward to seeing colleagues in Manchester at what will be my first conference as the LGA’s Conservative Group Leader. As we all know, councillors are the backbone of our party, so let us make sure that our voice is heard loud and clear throughout the event.