Kent CC leader and County Councils Network chair Paul Carter has officially launched his bid to become Conservative group leader on the Local Government Association.
Cllr Carter said there was an “essential need to put forward a county leader” for the role which fell vacant in March after Surrey CC leader David Hodge resigned over his role in the county’s alleged ‘sweetheart deal’ with ministers for social care funding.
LGC reported last month how Cllr Carter was expected to put his name forward for the post while Hillingdon LBC’s deputy leader David Simmonds has also been tipped to stand.
In an email, seen by LGC, sent by Cllr Carter in the wake of the county elections he said: “I have been encouraged by many colleagues to put my ’name in the frame’ for this position and now that we have got past May 4th, I would like it to be known that I intend to put my name forward as the county candidate to be leader of the LGA Conservative Group.”
The contest for the Conservative group leader role comes at a crucial time as four Tory-led counties – Essex, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, and Surrey –, along with Manchester City Council and Hart DC, have served notice to end their LGA membership next March. The four counties have argued the LGA has not given enough weight to counties’ funding concerns, in particular for social care, and are seeking the organisation to reform to reflect those.
In Cllr Carter’s email he said CCN had “succeeded in getting greater recognition of the importance of country areas” and added campaigns relating to social care funding and devolution deals without directly elected mayors had “resulted in improved outcomes for county authorities and positioned CCN as a significant voice to be reckoned with both locally and nationally”.
He added: “However, the LGA has perhaps been less effective in representing the interests of counties and county unitaries across England.”
Cllr Carter said the future presented “big opportunities and challenges for local government, particularly county authorities” as he anticipated the Conservatives would win the general election with a “significantly increased mandate”.
He said the sector “will need to move swiftly to make representation on the ‘big ticket’ issues” and added: “These include (in no particular order) a fair funding package for schools, sustainable long-term solutions to fund social care, county devolution (no mayors), and last but not least, the needs-led fairer funding review for local government.”