The Government announced more than 30 bills as Parliament returned following December’s General Election.
Measures to deliver Brexit, protect tenants, improve building safety, increase funding for schools, reform business rates and find a long-term solution to social care were among the many proposals announced in the pre-Christmas Queen’s Speech.
By building new homes, creating jobs and school places, providing dignified care, and boosting economic growth, councils are a vital part of our democracy and the delivery of frontline services to communities.
It is positive therefore that the Government has listened to the LGA’s calls, as part of its #CouncilsCan campaign, for a new devolution settlement to empower councils to transform their local areas, and to see this Queen’s Speech make commitments on a variety of issues which are important to residents.
“Brexit must lead to further powers for local communities“
Delivering Brexit will occupy a lot of parliamentary time in January. The UK’s departure from the EU is an opportunity for government, the LGA and councils to work together to ensure that, through local government, communities have a greater say over their futures, new opportunities are identified to grow local economies, and the risks to local areas are managed carefully.
Brexit cannot mean leaving Brussels only to consolidate power in Whitehall, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont. Instead, it must lead to further powers for local communities through local government. Devolution to local communities through councils should be at the heart of the Government’s thinking as it brings forward proposals that will shape the future of our constitution.
Building new homes and preventing the tragedy of homelessness will be another priority for the new Parliament. The Queen’s Speech included plans to abolish ‘no fault’ evictions, build at least a million more homes and end rough sleeping in five years. It is key that we build houses of all tenures to provide people with safe and secure homes, and councils will continue to play an important role in the nation’s new home building programme.
The Queen’s Speech also made important announcements in relation to NHS funding and social care. NHS funding will increase and we believe this will only be maximised if there is an equivalent investment in social care, public health and prevention services that improve people’s health, wellbeing and independence. It is also vital that there is cross- party agreement on the long-term future of social care.
Meanwhile, it was positive to see the Queen’s Speech commit to ensuring that all children have a high-quality education. The Government announced it will increase schools’ ‘high needs’ budgets, giving councils more certainty when it comes to supporting children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). In the longer term, all schools should become more inclusive so that they can provide appropriate support to more SEND children.
Other proposals of interest to councils include a tough new building safety system enshrined in law, in response to the Grenfell Tower fire; a review of business rates; White Papers on planning and social housing; a national infrastructure strategy; the reintroduction of the Environment Bill; a Domestic Abuse Bill; and a Constitution, Democracy and Rights Commission.