The job of Conservative group leader, if done well, will require time commitment, hard work and political nous. I believe that over the last few years I have shown that I have all of these strengths and, if lucky enough to be elected, will be able to use them with whoever the new team are, to make sure that the voices of all Conservative councils are heard loud and clear both within the Local Government Association and beyond.
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I have supported the plans that will have seen member’s subscriptions reduced by 30% over a few years and supported the plans that have seen the organisation rationalise the way it works, to the extent that we now employ only half as many staff as we did last year. I have supported members’ requests for a reduction in the pay bill of senior officers and hope that whoever the new team are, they make sure that the role of the new chief executive is designed to work in the new world and is paid at a lower rate to reflect this.
I have promoted – and will continue to promote – the need for the LGA to engage with its members away from Smith Square. As chairman of the environment board I moved an expectation that all members would do at least a third of their formal work out in the regions. I also introduced a monthly briefing note for all leaders to keep them informed of our work and for them to use as a route back in for the things that they thought we should be doing.
If elected as group leader I would make a suggestion that the executive endorse this for all boards. I would also make sure that the Conservative group hold more policy days around the country so that it is easier for all councils to become actively involved with our policy direction. I have also pledged that I would reduce the power of patronage that is vested in the office of group leader and would make more of the posts held by members be determined by election rather than appointment.
The LGA needs to be able to speak for all councils, it needs to be able to hold mature conversations with central government and it needs to be able to articulate what is best about what we all do. However we also have to be able to acknowledge that a few of our members are not as strong on service delivery as the best and when there is poor performance we have to be big enough to admit it and be prepared to do something about it. If we can do that then I think we can argue the case for government to get off of our backs.
Members will already be aware that both in public and in private I have been more than capable of making this case for district councils; I would welcome the opportunity to do it on behalf of all councils.
Gary Porter (Con), leader, South Holland DC and chair, LGA environment and programme housing board
LGA Conservative group leader candidate: Gary porter