LGA Conference Blog, By Megan Ingle

Posted on 09/08/2023 by Megan Ingle.

Hot off the heels of our own Annual Conference in mid-June, CfGS then attended the LGA Conference 2023 in early July, joined by our colleagues the Association of Democratic Service Officers (ADSO) and Lawyers in Local Government (LLG) on the ‘good governance hub’.

The LGA advised that their programme this year would ‘focus on providing councils with corporate, finance and governance peer challenges as staff look to strengthen the offer, which was launched as an improvement tool following the demise of the Audit Commission[1].’ Here at CfGS, our purpose is to help organisations achieve their outcomes through improved governance and scrutiny, therefore this programme particularly resonated with us.

This year we sought to have some cohesive themes which we could then use as a springboard to engage in dialogue with delegate and colleagues. Alongside colleagues at ADSO and LLG, these themes and questions are subject matters that we have been working on collectively and individually. These were:

  • Learnings from best practice and poor practice
  • How virtual meetings enhance modern government
  • Local elections: New Councillors, New Leadership & No Overall Control – What support is needed from a governance perspective?
  • Ethics and standards – how the handling of ethical issues impact public confidence both positively and negatively

Ahead of the LGA Conference, each organisation wrote blogs on the above topics, which you can read here [link] which we hope will provide a bit more context and insight into our thoughts on these matters.

In terms of virtual meetings, this is something that collectively the three organisations have been lobbying for since the pandemic back in 2020, this is in regard to calling on the Government to change the law to give councils (ranging from county, district and unitary authorities, through to town and parish councils) the freedom to hold remote meetings when local circumstances suit. This includes hybrid meetings.

This follows the unsuccessful High Court action in 2021 and the subsequent judgement that it was for Parliament to change the law not the courts – as indeed the devolved administrations have done in Wales and Scotland to allow for on-line meetings[2]. A recent development on this, which took place after the LGA Conference, is that Conservative Peer Baroness McIntosh of Pickering tabled an amendment, which was subsequently passed in the HoL, which would allow councils to hold remote meetings. Definitely a step in the right direction!

In terms of control change, as you would imagine, we had lots of chats with councils about this during the course of the conference. CfGS recently introduced our new ‘offer’ earlier in the year, which centres around councils that have undergone a control change/moved into No Overall Control, and how we can assist in managing these transitions. If you’d like to chat more about this, please do drop us an email at info@cfgs.org.uk.

As always, we had lots of thought-provoking discussions with delegates and connected with many different Councils and organisations. It was also really encouraging to hear so many colleagues stress the importance of good governance.

Both Rt Hon Angela Rayner and Rt Hon Michael Gove in their respective keynote speeches, stressed the importance of their commitment to devolution, with Gove formally launching the Office for Local Government ‘Oflog’. Following his speech, DHLUC published the ‘Office for Local Government: Understanding and supporting local government performance’ Policy Paper and the Local Authority Data Explorer (LADE). The policy paper does provide more insight into the role of Oflog and its functions and the LADE ‘brings together a selection of existing metrics across a subset of service areas for data that is available at different levels of local authority’, which LA’s will likely find useful in comparing data.

Against the backdrop of sunny Bournemouth, we found the conference to be incredibly valuable and we learnt a lot. We are looking forward to next year already!

[1] Minister: Oflog won’t spot every council failure (themj.co.uk)

[2] Model-Motion-Remote-Meetings-2022-02-10.pdf (adso.co.uk)