The Government has outlined its plans for homes, health and care, jobs, skills and the environment.
Measures to reform the planning system, increase health and care integration, invest in new jobs, improve building safety, and tackle climate change formed a key part of the Queen’s Speech announced after May’s local elections.
Councils know their local areas best and stand ready to help lead efforts to ensure this new legislative agenda is transformational and delivers meaningful, positive change for people and communities.
Levelling up was one of the key themes of the Queen’s Speech, and councils will be central to efforts to address the stark inequalities exposed by the pandemic.
One of the main lessons from the crisis is that councils can innovate well and help create and deliver new services from scratch and at speed.
All councils can support the drive for economic recovery and new infrastructure investment, build more homes where needed, join up public services, and provide greater access to jobs and prosperity.
With the Government setting its sights on delivering its target to build 300,000 homes a year, the speech contained significant commitments to reform the planning system.
The LGA reiterated that councils are granting permission for nine in 10 planning applications and are not a barrier to development, yet more than 1.1 million homes given planning permission in the past decade are still to be built.
Councils want to work with government to reform and strengthen our planning system, ensuring it is locally led and delivers sustainable development.
The speech also saw the Government introduce a new Skills and Further Education Bill, aimed at tackling rising levels of long-term unemployment caused by the pandemic.
Councils are uniquely placed to bring together partners in local places to address these challenges. With adequate resourcing and powers, councils can bring together diverse national schemes to ensure delivery on the ground is more effective.
While the Government committed to bring forward plans to reform the social care system, councils urgently need a clear timeline.
It is vital that this is also converted into concrete funding proposals, to provide sustainable support to people of all ages who draw on social care to live the life they want to lead. Many councils will also be disappointed to hear that the speech did not include legislation to allow them to hold online and hybrid meetings. Councils want the flexibility to meet in this way and continue their business, especially in times of emergency.
- Strengthens local powers to tackle air-quality issues.
- Protects nature by mandating ‘biodiversity net gain’ in the planning system.
- Introduces a consistent approach to recycling across local authorities in England.
The LGA says: “The Bill points to a new relationship between local and national government when it comes to the environment and, while councils are best placed to take the lead on this agenda, they will need adequate funding and access to skills to deliver on our shared ambitions.”
Health and Care Bill
- Lays the foundations for a more integrated health and care system.
- Gives the NHS and local authorities the tools they need to level up health and care outcomes across the country.
The LGA says: “There should be local flexibility, with health and local government leaders working as equal partners to establish the Integrated Care Systems Health and Care Partnership in a way that works for each area and builds on existing effective partnerships.”
Building Safety Bill
- Creates the Building Safety Regulator, with a duty on council regulators and fire and rescue authorities to cooperate with it.
- Introduces new duties for those responsible for residential buildings over 18 metres or seven storeys.
- Makes provisions for a levy on developers.
The LGA says: “This Bill cannot come soon enough, as our broken building safety system needs reforms to be enshrined in tough new legislation. Residents have a right to be safe and to feel safe in their own homes, and the construction industry and those with legal duties now need to step up and deliver the cladding remediation work required.”
- Simplifies and reduces the number of procurement procedures from seven to three.
- Introduces processes for procuring ‘at pace’ during a crisis, with strengthened safeguards.
- Establishes a single data platform for supplier registration.
- Tackles unacceptable behaviour, such as supplier fraud.
The LGA says: “There are additional unacceptable behaviours to be included under grounds for exclusion beyond what is proposed, such as tax evasion, data protection, equalities, modern slavery, and professional misconduct.”
Draft Online Safety Bill
- Requires major platforms to set out clearly in their terms and conditions what legal content is unacceptable on their platform, and enforce these consistently and transparently.
- Places a duty of care on companies to improve the safety of their users online.
The LGA says: “We are concerned about the increasing spread of mis- and disinformation, and incidents of intimidation and abuse of elected representatives. Both pose significant threats to local democracy, as well as public health and community safety, and we welcome measures to tackle these issues.”
- Levelling Up White Paper to be published later this year.
- New policy interventions to improve livelihoods and opportunities in all parts of the UK.
- Levelling up defined as creating good jobs, skills and productivity in places that have seen economic decline.
The LGA says: “With the right funding, freedoms and devolved powers, councils can work with partners to drive improvements in public health, boost local economic growth, revive town and city centres, build more homes, improve our roads, and equip people with the skills they need to succeed, so no-one is left behind.”
- Local plans to provide more certainty over the type, scale and design of development permitted on different categories of land.
- A new, more predictable and transparent levy to replace existing systems for funding affordable housing.
The LGA says: “To tackle the housing crisis and meet the Government’s target of building 300,000 new homes a year, councils need to be given the powers to get building on a scale not seen since the 1970s, when they built 40 per cent of new housing.”
Skills and Post-16 Education Bill
- Offers adults the opportunity to retrain in later life through the Lifetime Skills Guarantee.
- Reforms post-16 skills system through a ‘Skills Accelerator’, enabling employers and providers to collaborate to develop local skills plans.
The LGA says: “If the Government is to fulfil its ambition to support adults back into training and education, councils and combined authorities must see their Adult Education Budget, which has been halved since 2010, restored in full.”