A Queen’s Speech for councils

The Queen’s Speech comes hot on the heels of the Spending Round, which – following a successful LGA campaign to make the case for more funding and certainty for the next financial year – saw councils get £3.5 billion, the largest allocation for a decade.

Having worked to secure this new investment, our attention now turns to the legislative agenda and how a forthcoming Queen’s Speech can spark the radical programme that will reignite the devolution process, so councils get the freedoms they need to lead their local areas and improve the lives of their residents.

In our #CouncilsCan document, published at this year’s LGA annual conference, we set out the key legislative changes that we believe will deliver the funding and powers to enable councils to transform local areas:

  • English Devolution Bill – enshrining an English devolution settlement in primary legislation and providing options for devolved powers in England to at least the level of the Scottish Government; and that expands devolution to those areas outside the metropolitan combined authorities
  • Local Government Finance Bill – providing full local control over council tax, including abolition of referendum limits, local powers to set levels of discounts, and powers over banding. In addition, we need 100 per cent business rates retention so councils have a stable and predictable financial outlook, and annual, rolling, multi-year settlements
  • Education and Skills Bill – giving back to councils the powers to build new schools, and reversing the legal ban on councils supporting inadequate maintained schools and struggling academies. The Bill should also enable devolution of employment and skills provision and the transfer of powers and funding from the Secretary of State
  • Electoral Bill – helping protect councillors and candidates from intimidation through a new electoral offence of intimidatory behaviour, and providing guidance for the general public on what is reasonable protest and comment
  • Domestic Abuse Bill – providing a statutory definition of domestic abuse, to include economic abuse, and giving councils the powers required to tackle domestic abuse and support victims, in particular through focusing on early intervention and preventative work (including with perpetrators)
  • Building Safety Bill – implementing the Hackitt Review recommendations by placing new duties on building owners, and establishing new regulatory powers with effective sanctions, a new competence regime for industry and tougher product safety and assurance standards.

In addition, there are multiple policy changes and reforms needed to ensure councils have the freedom and funding to make the local decisions that will improve outcomes for all and ensure the country gets better value for money. These include new policies on adult social care and preventative services for children and adults; a reformed waste strategy; changes to housing and homelessness policies including devolving Right to Buy; devolution of transport powers and an updated air quality policy; improvements to children’s mental health services; and stronger powers for health and wellbeing boards.

Councils are in the unique position of being able to make the change needed locally that will ultimately solve some of the biggest problems the nation is facing – shaping the places we live in, improving the environment, making our communities more cohesive and changing the lives of those who live there.

With the right powers and funding, #CouncilsCan.

For more details of our proposals for the Queen’s Speech, please see our ‘Councils can’ conference paper, at www.local.gov.uk/councils-can-2019-conference-paper

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