I hope you have had at least something of a break over August as I have done and getting our feet back under the table for September.
Changes in the office
We have some changes in the office as Sarah Woodhouse, Head of Group Office, is off on maternity leave in October. Although her replacement is only a temporary position, it is an important one. We went through a full recruitment process and successfully recruited an excellent person in Toby Ganley. We are planning a week handover at the end of September.
Sadly for us, Vanessa Chagas is moving to Lisbon with her family. Vanessa has served the Independent Group at the LGA with flair and dedication, always efficient and a joy to work with. We wish her well. We have a temporary person in place and will be recruiting again soon. Noleen Rosen remains in post.
The Independent Group Executive have set out our stall for the year with the aim of getting out to work with as many of you as possible in your patch; details of future meetings will be circulated shortly.
We also continue with our monthly development seminars, which are all accessible virtually. Now is the time to get election-ready. Our next two Information and Development seminars are aimed at helping you engage with the electorate. The first on 28 September will focus on some campaigning top tips while on 24 October in London or 3 November in Mansfield we are running social media workshops.
This week saw a successful conference for Member peers, that is experienced councillors trained and ready to assist others. Our peers are able to provide support on a range of areas including leadership, alternative budgets, audit, planning, preparing for Ofsted, constitutional and procedural questions, commercialisation and being an effective councillor. You can access this support through the Independent Group Office, either talking through issues on the phone individually or face to face as a group. There is a great deal our peer members can do to assist, but we need you to request it. Some help is already funded and available including mentoring and corporate reviews.
Please consider what might be useful to you, your group or your council. The government dropped the requirement for bureaucratic assessments on the basis that the LGA provides its own sector-led improvement service for councils, so it is important that we access it. It might be worth asking your council what peer support has been received and make some useful suggestions for this year.
Finally, thank you for your ongoing work on the task groups, in correspondence, at our seminars and conferences, which underpins all our work. With the Autumn Budget looming, we are working and putting pressure on Government regarding full and fairer funding for councils, return of the business rates and on the Brexit negotiations. More on this to come.
I wish you all the very best in the next session and look forward to working with you to get the best for our councillors and our residents.