Showing our worth as place-makers

Huge thanks to all who managed to attend our hybrid annual conference this year, held on 29 October. 

It is the biggest event exclusively for LGA Independent Group members, and was the best attended conference we have had, with a full hall at the LGA’s London headquarters and many more councillors online. 

Opening the conference, I outlined the successes of our growing group of more than 2,900 councillors. Over the past year, our members have been extremely busy, responding to consultations, speaking and writing to ministers, commenting in the press, and lobbying on behalf of our councils. 

We’ve seen more money come to councils. We have demonstrated our worth as place-leaders, continuing our community and business support in response to the pandemic. 

We successfully pushed back on government plans to curtail our right to campaign ahead of May’s elections. We’ve also shaped the LGA’s position on issues including planning and infrastructure, climate change, building safety, and civility. 

Thank you to all who have contributed to our think tanks over the past 12 months – key thinking that is vital to getting the right solutions. 

At our conference, LGA President Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson spoke about her work in the House of Lords, assisting us with important changes in legislation.  

LGA Chairman Cllr James Jamieson outlined the LGA’s corporate plan, setting out our asks of government to help us ‘build back local’. 

Crossbencher Lord Victor Adebowale took an Independent look at the future of local government and challenged councils to do things differently, while thanking us for keeping the country moving through difficult times. 

In discussing impending changes to planning, our members were very clear about the importance of council control, rather than a centralised tick-box exercise. 

Members also expressed concern about the unfair approach to housing numbers, an issue I later took to Secretary of State Michael Gove. 

It seems the Government still has the priority of getting 300,000 dwellings built every year – probably an impossible task if we are also to keep to reaching net zero by 2050.

We had a powerful discussion, alongside the police and third-sector partners, on what councils can do to address violence against women and girls. 

And, meeting ahead of COP26, we heard from Jo Wall, Strategic Director for Climate Response at Local Partnerships, about their work on net zero; and then the theory and practice of ‘doughnut economics’, including its application in Cornwall, to ensure decisions are made holistically, balancing all the competing pressures. 

Thank you to all our session chairs (Cllrs Hannah Dalton, Emily O’Brien, Patricia Patterson-Vanegas and Rosemary Harris), our speakers for superb presentations, and our group officers and LGA staff who helped on the day. 

This event forms a significant springboard for our members, and all the resources are available on our website (see www.local.gov.uk/lga-independent/events/past-conferences).

We closed the conference with our annual prize giving. We had many outstanding nominations for awards, celebrating community activism, group and council leadership, and contributions to the wider work of the LGA. 

Five councillors were nominated for our group’s highest honour, the Clarence Barrett Award, in memory of a key member of the group. They included Cllrs Clive Woodbridge, James Hall, Kevin Etheridge and Tim Gwilliam. Huge congratulations to Cllr Phélim Mac Cafferty (Green, Brighton).

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

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