Budget time is an opportunity for members to demonstrate their values by putting their money where their mouth is. New innovations or amendments are being roundly proposed by Independent Group members across our two countries. This appears in sharp relief in areas where all counties and some unitary authorities are up for elections in May. 2,410 council seats are up for election, including all of Wales and just under half the English electorate. Postal votes are out early this year to avoid Easter, bringing the process forward somewhat. Hence this round of meetings as a useful last opportunity to make a Council proposal in public, retrievable on line.
Many of our councillors have put forward proposals to protect local services, to make better use of resources or create more resources through new commercial ideas. Investing capital to make or save revenue remains popular. Proposals from Independent Group members include ideas as diverse as investing in beach huts on the Isle of Wight, setting up building companies and innovation funds for community business to move in where the council moves out. Many of our member councillors are speaking up on care, mental health, dangerous road surfaces, fly-tipping up by a fifth this year, more public transport and reduction of our carbon footprint.
Many councils have been selling off their assets and spending reserves to help support an ever-increasing demand for care of young and older people with disabilities. With fewer council staff, there are more opportunities to sell or re-let property, especially working with other public services, but much depends on the market.
Please let us know if you have other good budget ideas we can share with colleagues.
- Business rates - How to share out the retained business rates between councils is out for consultation now. Please have a look and have your say. Please send a copy to the office so we can gather forces and hopefully include your points in the LGA response going through our reps on the LGA Resources Board.
- New candidates - To assist you now, our LGA Independent Group is doing an excellent job helping to fund and support "Be a Councillor" events, helping our members encourage others to stand. If you would like one in your area, please let us know!
- Community engagement – the LGA has produced a new guide on neighbourhood and community engagement, which could be useful.
Most of all, please look after yourself, we need to pace ourselves as we enter a busy period ahead! Councils have a duty of care, of course, so please ask!