Cllr Izzi Seccombe is the Leader of Warwickshire County Council and the Leader of the Conservative Group of the Local Government Association.
Despite the political turmoil prior to conference, and concerns that it may in fact be cancelled, delegates, including many colleagues from local government, came together in Manchester to meet with Ministers, share best practice, and interact with all sections of the Party. It was a great opportunity for the Conservative family to celebrate our achievements and set out our vision for the future.
This year’s slogan was ‘Get Brexit Done: Invest in our NHS, schools and police,’ which clearly demonstrates the importance of having a strong domestic agenda beyond Brexit.
Among the many great speeches from Ministers, I was particularly pleased to hear, Sajid Javid, the Chancellor of Exchequer, emphasise the importance of infrastructure, and highlight the fact that public services are at the heart of Government’s agenda.
Among the policies that the Chancellor announced, which will positively impact on local government, are investment in our roads network, the creation of a national bus strategy, and £5 billion in funding to provide full-fibre broadband across the country (the latter being an issue that the LGA has strongly lobbied on for many years).
The conference had a really good vibe and upbeat mood, and the feedback that I have received from Conservative councillors has been very positive. There were lots of outstanding fringe events covering a wide range of policy issues that matter to local government, including devolution, housing, social care, homelessness, and domestic violence. I am grateful to my LGA Conservative Group colleagues who spoke at many of these events.
I was delighted to speak at a number of fringe meetings myself and also to take part in a Question and Answer session in the main auditorium titled ‘Forging Stronger Communities’ with Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands; Ben Houchen, Mayor of the Tees Valley; Javed Khan, CEO of Barnardo’s; and David Goodhart, Head of Policy Exchange’s Demography, Immigration and Integration Unit.
The Local Government Association (LGA) also hosted two events at the Conference: The LGA Debate, which was titled, Why is the Queen’s Speech important for local government?; and our ever popular evening drinks reception.
I was delighted that both events were so well attended with lots of Conservative councillors present.
As part of our #CouncilCan campaign, the LGA is asking the Government to use the forthcoming Queen’s Speech to give councils and local communities greater powers and freedoms. Our panel for the debate brought together a wide range of experts and a lively debate ensued with plenty of strong contributions from the audience.
We were grateful that Robert Jenrik, our Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, came to our drinks reception. Following his recent appointment as Secretary of State this was an excellent opportunity for him to meet so many Conservative councillors in one room. In his speech, Jenrik thanked our councillors for their hard work on behalf of their local communities and recognised the crucial role that they play within the Conservative Party. Rishi Sunak, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury (and former MHCLG Minister), and Andy Street were also were present and received a warm welcome from our guests.
I believe that if we can get Brexit done we will have the opportunity to fully focus on our domestic agenda, allowing us to build a county that works for everyone with a strong economy and world-class public services. With a general election possibly only a few weeks away I came away from the conference more motivated than ever for the fight that lies ahead.