Independent voices

Our recent LGA Independent Group Annual Conference reflected our priorities for the year, covering the issues most raised by our members.

I opened the conference, along with LGA Chairman Lord Porter and the LGA’s Dennis Skinner, outlining our successes, including funding for adult care, potholes, infrastructure and high streets, and scrapping the housing borrowing cap.

These one-off payments are important, but now long-term solutions are needed. Our own LGA social care green paper is therefore highly significant, proposing options on how to fund adult care, including increasing National Insurance and/or income tax.

Speaking at our first plenary session, chaired by Cllr Gillian Ford (Havering), the Earl of Listowel and Lord Adebowale both made the case superbly for better support of adults and children, including our proper role as corporate parents.

The Government seems to have pinned everything about Brexit onto one person but, in local government, we immediately formed a cross-party task force to seek opportunities and mitigate risks for our councils and residents.

“One-off payments are important, but now long-term solutions are needed

Members of the LGA task force and European committees, Cllrs Ford, Clarence Barrett (Havering), Andrew Cooper (Kirklees) and myself, outlined what the LGA has been doing in regards to the Brexit negotiations. We are calling for more details about the Government’s proposed UK Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU regeneration funding, and targeted support on any extra burdens. Our councils continue preparations in case of a ‘no deal’ scenario.

Our lunchtime Speaker’s Corner was very full, with brilliant three-minute member presentations from our councillors, chaired by Cllr Colin Mann (Caerphilly).

Cllr Steven Heddle, from the Orkneys – another place with a long heritage of Independent local government – impressed us with the formation and localised powers of an islands authority.

Our lively debate on the ‘Big parties in meltdown’ was chaired by Nick Golding, Editor of the Local Government Chronicle, and supported by Tony Travers, columnist and Professor at the London School of Economics, and Cllr Andrew Cooper, of the Green Group. We talked about the opportunities opening up for our members as the hold of big party politics is shaken to breaking point.

A housing and planning workshop with Cllr Chris Townsend (Surrey) and the LGA’s Nick Porter looked at opportunities resulting from the lifting of the housing borrowing cap. Cllr Cooper and the LGA’s Sonika Sidhu led a discussion on what councils can do for the environment, while Cllr Barrett, with the LGA’s Mike Heiser, ran a workshop on the Fair Funding Review and business rates retention.

A powerful session on community safety and public protection, with Daryl Edmunds, Lambeth’s Interim Public Protection Operations Manager, and Cllr Hannah Dalton (Epsom & Ewell), was very popular with members. The LGA’s new pay and workforce strategy for councils was presented by Cllr Bob Jennings (Epping Forest) and Nigel Carruthers from the LGA’s workforce team.

Our Deputy Leader, Cllr Clive Woodbridge (Epsom & Ewell), led the feedback session and I had the pleasure of closing a very productive day.

The evening reception was enlivened by two speakers, Dr Wanda Wyporska, of The Equality Trust, and Emily Zinkin, of the Fawcett Society.

Another very inspiring day with cutting-edge discussions and debate, helps shape consensus for the future direction of the LGA and its influence on national and European legislation.

For more information about the LGA’s Independent Group, please visit www.local.gov.uk/lga-independent

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