Cllr David Simmonds is Deputy Leader of the London Borough of Hillingdon and Deputy Chairman of the Local Government Association.
All Conservative councillors have been focussed on winning votes in the general election in the past weeks, and Conservative councillors from all types of council, including those we run and those we have to campaign to win, are reflecting on what the result means for us. I am campaigning to be Group Leader at the Local Government Association to ensure a united Conservative voice that reflects the ambitions of all our leaders, groups, and councils as we negotiate a new political landscape which presents opportunities, and challenges, which were not expected even a few weeks ago.
The LGA remains the best way for getting our voice heard by government and the media, who do so much to influence political debate. It is right that Conservative voices dominate, as we have campaigned hard for our place as the largest party in local government. Based on feedback from colleagues around the country, in all types of council, my aims if elected will be:
- The financial challenge that all councils face remains great, and my number one priority is a funding settlement for social care that works for everyone. The LGA lobbying that resulted in an extra £2bn in the last budget was a welcome step, but we need to see councils coming together to play a bigger role in controlling the spend. Those who have the best ideas and can manage most efficiently must be free to do so.
- Much of Whitehall will be occupied with Brexit. This is an opportunity for councils and I will campaign to ensure that devolution does not stick in Whitehall. Councils, because of their local knowledge, are best placed to help their communities to meet the challenges and make the most of the economic opportunities that we need to exploit to make Brexit a success. I will build on this with government to ensure that you have more opportunity to shape and grow your local economy.
- Housebuilding has been much debated in the general election. Councils are the source of creative ideas which need to be taken up by government if we are to see a step-change in the volume of new homes delivered. Many Conservative councils have made huge strides in this direction, but we need to showcase these good examples and demonstrate that central control is not the way to get results.
There are, of course, many other policy areas where councils have so much to offer and which we need to get right, not least the thorny issue of business rate retention and what it means for council funding.
I am a passionate believer in the positive difference that councillors make to the lives of their residents, and to their community. Councillors bring common sense and local knowledge that is needed to make a success of our policies and we value the contribution that they make. It is the role of the LGA to convince our government of this; if elected Group Leader, I will be a strong voice for Conservatives in local government.