On behalf of its members, the cross-party LGA regularly briefs parliamentarians of all political affiliations on issues of concern and relevance to local government ahead of debates in Parliament. The most recent of these can be found here, as can the LGA's written responses to parliamentary inquiries, such as those held by Select Committees.
We welcome closer working between the VOA and local authorities. This must be accompanied by measures to significantly reduce the backlog of appeals. The VOA and councils must receive additional funding to implement these changes.
We welcome the introduction of the Fire Safety Bill (FSB) and hope it will be an important step in the right direction. We are concerned about some of the practicalities of the Bill, how it aligns with the building safety proposals the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is preparing, and the costs it may impose on councils and other building owners.
Nationally prescribed permitted development rights disempower communities and local councils. The approach inhibits local government’s ability to make decisions on behalf of their communities based on their local knowledge and evidence.
On the high streets, footfall is down over 43 per cent compared to the same period last year. Before the pandemic, footfall had dropped over 10 per cent in the last 7 years. Internet sales had risen 21 per cent of all retail sales from 7 per cent a decade earlier and during the pandemic had jumped to nearly 33 per cent of all retail sales.
While these powers are a welcome addition to the tools that councils have to tackle local outbreaks, and some councils have issued directions, there are also some challenges in using the directions. The regulations include the threshold of a serious and imminent threat to public health before a direction can be issued, and there is a need to consult with both the local Director of Public Health and to inform the Secretary of State for Health. This threshold has had the effect of deterring councils in areas where there has not to date been a significant rise in infections from issuing directions, in the belief that they do not meet the test of a serious and imminent threat to public health.
Business rates account for around a quarter of all council spending power. Money raised is used to pay for vital local services, such as caring for older and disabled people, protecting children, fixing potholes and collecting bins.
The visitor economy sector has taken one of the biggest financial hits due to COVID-19. Gaps in support packages alongside the absence of the seasonal boost the industry usually sees over the summer means the impact of the pandemic will be felt in the weeks and months to come, with many at risk of closure.