Taking an independent line

Elected members from across England and Wales convened in London recently for the LGA Independent Group Annual Conference.

Always a vibrant event, our conference gives LGA Independent Group members an opportunity to discuss the issues affecting our communities, attend skills workshops, network, and influence national policy.

This year, climate change and leadership were our two main themes.

We welcomed colleagues to our biggest conference to date, and outlined the important role the group’s 2,770 members play in making sure our residents are heard and represented, not only locally but through the LGA on the national and international stage. The group’s executive, lead board members and peers were introduced – demonstrating a strong team supporting our members across England and Wales.

Over the past year, the group has grown by more than 700 new members compared with the same elections in 2015. We’re now leading more councils and have more representatives in Europe and Westminster than ever before. That means our peer team is extremely busy supporting new administrations, areas with no overall political control, leaders and cabinet members, as well as our backbenchers.

LGA Chairman Cllr James Jamieson and Chief Executive Mark Lloyd addressed conference, recognising the contribution made by our members to the work of the LGA, especially around the reshaping of the LGA’s business plan, our climate change work and some of our key messages relating to housing, infrastructure and community.

We heard from the eminent Professor Tony Travers, of the London School of Economics and Political Science, on the changing face of British politics. Dr Ian Smith, of the University of the West of England, helped lead a workshop on climate change where members were able to share their best practice now that 60 per cent of councils, along with the LGA, have declared a climate emergency.

It is shocking that every year the Arctic loses an area of ice the size of Scotland and that extreme weather now has such a huge toll on human health, livelihoods and assets, as well as on ecosystems.

Our councils are at the forefront of the change needed to respond to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and our members are leading the charge.

Broadcaster Tasneem Siddiqi led our ‘working with the media’ workshops while LGA Principal Advisers Helen Murray and Claire Hogan led sessions on leadership, whether in opposition or administration.

We also heard directly from our members during our regular Speaker’s Corner slot. Councillors from across England and Wales shared their best practice, challenges and concerns, including the need for more affordable housing, a different approach to planning and an innovative Repair Café, as a way of addressing isolation while also helping the environment by reducing waste.

After our conference we had a drinks reception where we heard from Frances Scott, founder of 50:50 Parliament, about its work to ensure greater gender equality, an ambition our group has supported for some time.

Conference proved to be thought-provoking and useful and members are already looking forward to the event next year, scheduled for 6 November 2020.

On behalf of the Independent Group’s leadership team, I would like to thank all of those, including the office staff, who contributed to such an inspiring day.

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

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