It won’t have escaped your notice that today is the Winter Solstice, so we can start enjoying longer days again after today!
The Settlement came through a week late, but in time for Christmas not to be cancelled, I hope! On your behalf, I had a useful informal meeting with Ministers, Rishi Sunak and James Brokenshire and the equivalent of Scrutiny Chairman, Clive Betts. We have a formal meeting in early January. Parliament feels volatile at the moment, as you can imagine.
New waste and recycling strategy
As you know, fellow members and I worked with the European Local Government to improve recycling, especially of plastics. The Government has responded to the calls of many of our members in its new waste and recycling strategy, launched this week. This requires manufacturers to consider the end use of the materials before they produce them and to pick up some of the bill for its reuse or recycling. Currently councils pay 90 per cent of this bill for recycling, but in the new strategy this will instead go to the product manufacturers, forcing them to think about sustainable packaging. It could raise between £500 million and £1 billion per year to aid recycling and the disposal of rubbish. The plans also include a commitment to weekly food waste collections in every home, a deposit return scheme and clearer labelling on packaging to show if it can be recycled. The LGA has welcomed the announcements but flagged that many councils are in waste agreements with local providers that they cannot get out of easily or quickly. We’re also calling for all changes, including weekly food collections, to be fully funded.
New support for carers
Today the LGA launched a new document, Supporting carers: guidance and case studies which shares good practice and will assist councils to further improve the support carers receive. One in 10 people in England are carers, with one in four providing over 50 hours of care a week. The estimated total monetary value of care provided by carers in England is £132 billion. Caring for people has a significant impact on carers’ health, with seven in 10 having suffered mental ill health, and six in 10 having suffered physical ill health.
Some unpaid carers are children. In England there are 166,363 young carers aged 18 and under, an increase of a fifth in the last decade. One in 12 young carers is caring for more than 15 hours a week and one in 20 will miss school because of caring responsibilities.
Councils in England received 1.8 million new requests for adult social care in 2017/18 – the equivalent of more than 5,000 a day - but despite some extra funding, there is still a £3.5 billion funding gap facing adult social care by 2025 just to maintain existing standards of care.
Special educational needs and disability (SEND)
New money for SEND was announced over the weekend, due in large part to pressure by our members and the LGA as a whole. The Government announced £350 million for specialist support and tailored facilities to help those with complex needs. However helpful, it will only partially address the wider £472 million deficit councils are facing providing SEND support this year.
New EnAble Fund for elected office
This new EnAble Fund is intended to cover the additional financial costs associated with a disability or health condition, where it makes it possible for someone to stand. Please get in touch with our Group Office if you know anyone who may stand as an Independent or for one of our parties. Please do let people know.
Review of the last couple of months
It’s been a busy year for the Independent Group. Your elected and appointed members have successfully represented the Group on all LGA Board meetings, at outside bodies and European forums. Since September we’ve held eight regional meetings, eight Be a Cllr events, I’ve attended three party conferences, we’ve held two development seminars, started our fifth Next Generation programme, supported members to attend a range of LGA events, including the Leadership Programme, and delivered a very successful annual conference. Your thoughtful comments have been very important in shaping how issues would be best tackled and opportunities seized. The strength of our group is in you, the diversity and closeness to the communities, genuinely thinking about the best solutions for our residents.
Wishing you a Happy Christmas with good health, happiness and every success in the coming year. I look forward to an excellent year working with you and landslide success in all that we do.