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LGA cannot afford to sit on the fence over distribution of funding
25 June, 2015 | By Sarah Calkin
The incoming chair of the Local Government Association has pledged to avoid sitting “on the fence”, despite having to represent the interests of members from across the political spectrum
Gary Porter (Con) told LGC he would find ways for the association to present a united front on difficult issues, such as how funding should be distributed across local government.
Under the current finance regime, councils in the most deprived areas have suffered some of the largest cuts compared with authorities in relatively wealth areas. “If anything happens in this year it won’t be because we’ve got splinters,” he said. “We cannot afford to sit on the fence because then we’ll have the whole world designed against us.”
Asked whether the LGA would advocate a return to a means of funding distribution which was more based on need, Cllr Porter said it was not the only valid way of distributing funding. The funding regime should, however, become “more sophisticated”. “Needs based on poverty alone generally miss some parts of the country where there is real poverty masked by a general economic wellbeing,” he said.
He added that Labour councils should be confident he would represent their interests as he was not “a tribal politician”. “In some of the things I do I’m probably more left wing than some of the Labour councils: I bought the dustbins back in-house, grounds maintenance back in-house, kept my council houses.”
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27 May, 2015 | By David Paine
The Local Government Association is heading into uncharted territory and faces the biggest threat to its existence over this parliament, according to the frontrunner to become the body’s new chair.
Writing for LGC, LGA Conservative group leader Gary Porter noted it was the first time in the LGA’s history that it will have worked with a Conservative majority government. He said this, combined with a Conservative led LGA presented “both the biggest opportunity and the biggest threat to the sector being effectively represented by one lobbying organisation”.
He said: “Can we put up a senior team that will be able to work well with central government, and yet still be able to publicly articulate the case on behalf of our members when our sector’s interests cannot be advanced by either the formal or informal route?
“That’s why the Conservative group’s choice of chairman is more crucial than it has been at any time and it is for this reason that I am putting my name forward.”
The Conservatives regained control of the LGA in this month’s local elections meaning Labour’s David Sparks is set to be replaced as the LGA’s chair.
LGC reported last week that Cllr Porter looked set to be unchallenged for the role after potential rivals stepped aside to challenge for the group leadership role.
Cllr Porter, who is leader of South Holland DC, said he had a track record of working across the political divide and as chair would want to work closely with government to ensure services are redesigned in the best way to meet the financial challenge facing local authorities.
He said: “If the LGA is looking for someone who cares passionately about local government and about the role the association plays in protecting and promoting it, for someone who can work across political and sectorial boundaries, and for someone who will champion the work that we all do, then it is looking for me.”
Nominations for chair close on 9 June and the new post will be announced by the end of the month.
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10 January, 2013 | By Ruth Keeling
Cuts to localised council tax benefit are set to almost double and will reach 18% by 2014-15, it has emerged.
Council leaders learned of a further 8.5% cut to council tax support – on top of 10% already announced – during a meeting with ministers held yesterday.
Sharon Taylor (Lab), leader of Stevenage BC and chair of the LGA’s finance panel said the 8.5% cut in 2014-15, equivalent to £280m, was revealed during a meeting held on Wednesday with ministers and officials from the Department of Communities & Local Government.
“That is not what we were expecting,” she said. The LGA has received verbal confirmation of the surprise cut since the meeting and intends to lobby against the move, she said, which comes on top of a 10% cut due to be applied in 2013-14.
Cllr Taylor said it had been “made clear” in the meeting that the protection of pensioners from council tax benefit cuts would continue. This would mean cuts of more than 18% for other groups of claimants.
The revelation has led to fears that council tax benefit funding will be phased out following its localisation from central to local government, due to take place in April.
Mehboob Khan (Lab), leader of Kirklees MBC, said: “What’s really concerning is the…implications for council tax allowance in the future.” He told the LGA executive, meeting on Thursday, that sources close to the Treasury had suggested council tax benefit “would not be ring fenced” and was “likely to be reduced each year”.
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