The LGA’s engagement with Westminster has looked a little different this year, but we have still influenced key legislation and committee inquiries.
The LGA’s engagement with Westminster remains one of the most important ways to ensure we continue to be the national voice of local government.
Influencing debates, legislation and select committee inquiries has been even more important as we face one of the most serious public health emergencies of our lifetimes.
Each year, we produce a report providing an update on our work with MPs and Peers, as we seek to influence the parliamentary and political agenda, on behalf of councils across the country.
Our engagement has looked a little different over the past year, but we have still been able to influence key issues and celebrate the outstanding work of local government.
While the pandemic continues to challenge us all, the General Election in December 2019 means we are in the middle of a Parliamentary session, with a lot of legislation still being agreed. That said, influencing legislation as it is debated and agreed by Parliament continues to be vital to our lobbying.
For example, in response to representations from the LGA and councils, the Government amended the Coronavirus Act 2020 to make provisions for the Secretary of State to lay regulations so that councillors can attend, speak at, vote in, or otherwise participate in local authority meetings without being together in the same place.
This allowed councils to postpone meetings and engage in decision-making and voting remotely, providing them with the flexibility required to serve their local communities during the coronavirus crisis.
We also lobbied for the Business and Planning Act 2020 to be amended so that smoking could be restricted in pavement areas outside of hospitality businesses licensed through temporary pavement licences.
After wide-ranging support, including from the LGA, for a cross-party proposal on the issue, the Government introduced its own amendment to make reasonable provision for seating in outdoor areas where smoking is not permitted.
As well as working on these important proposals, we continue to engage with legislation on fire and building safety, domestic abuse, the environment and agriculture.
We have also enjoyed success in influencing select committee inquiries. In the past year, we have submitted evidence to a range of inquiries, including on business rates, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), the Government’s resources and waste strategy, and long-term, affordable rented housing, plus a variety of inquiries opened in response to COVID-19. These include on food supply, the impact on education and children’s services, adult social care, and Care Act easements.
Looking ahead to the next Parliamentary session, the LGA will be making the case for a sustainable financial package in the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review. The Government must provide councils with the financial certainty they need to continue to support residents.
Our parliamentary engagement will be important in supporting our narrative that now is the time to ‘Re-think local’ as the Government looks at its levelling-up and devolution agendas.
Meanwhile, we will continue to make the case for social care, demonstrating to parliamentarians why it is so important that these vital services have parity of esteem with the NHS. And, of course, there is much to be done in the months ahead to make the case for a local, democratically accountable planning system.