The Queen’s Speech needs to reignite the devolution process to ensure all parts of England reap the benefits of having greater powers and funding to improve services such as housing, transport, housing and health and social care, the Local Government Association has said.
The LGA, which represents 350 councils in England, said the issues facing our communities and local services must be top of the Government’s legislative agenda.
It is today setting out radical plans for how the Queen’s Speech — currently planned for October 14 — could be used by the Prime Minister to release the Government’s centralised grip of budgets and spending priorities across England. This will allow local areas to make decisions on how money is spent and design services that work for their communities and reduce demand for higher cost national services.
The LGA’s seven-point plan is underpinned by an English Devolution Bill that would hand widespread powers and funding to local areas across the whole country. Councils want to see their communities benefit from the full range of opportunities currently available to areas where devolution has already taken place but the LGA is concerned that devolution progress has stalled with no new deals announced since November 2017.
There is clear and significant evidence that outcomes improve and the country gets better value for money when councils have the freedoms and funding to make local decisions. Council maintained schools deliver better results for our children, council-run public health services are improving the health of our nation and where councils can influence the local skills agenda, businesses can grow to play a major economic role in the nation’s future prosperity.
As part of its #CouncilsCan campaign, the LGA is calling for the Government to use the Queen’s Speech to introduce the following:
English Devolution Bill – Give councils greater powers and funding to build more homes, secure the infrastructure essential to economic growth, and equip people with the skills they need to succeed.
Local Government Finance Bill – Councils need next year’s Spending Review to provide a long-term sustainable settlement, much needed certainty around funding and extra freedoms and flexibilities. This Bill should pave the way for local government to keep 100 per cent of business rates and boost local services, and set business rate discounts. It should also give councils full control over setting council tax, discounts and banding and provide a legal commitment to ensure councils get annual, rolling multi-year settlements.
Adult social care – The Government needs to publish its proposals for the future of adult social care as soon as possible to spark a truly nationwide public debate about the value of social care and how, as a nation, we will pay for it in the years ahead.
Building Safety Bill — This Bill should implement the Hackitt Review recommendations and enshrine a tough new building safety system into law. New duties would be placed on building owners alongside a regulatory regime with effective sanctions and tougher product safety and assurance standards.
Electoral Bill — This Bill should provide a new electoral offence of intimidatory behaviour, and provide guidance for the general public on what is reasonable protest and comment to improve civility in public life.
Transport and roads — give councils oversight of local transport systems by providing automatic access to franchising powers to all areas. This also includes fully funding the concessionary fares scheme and handing control over all of the Bus Service Operators’ Grant to councils so that public subsidies can be better targeted. It should also introduce an extension to the ban on pavement parking and the power to enforce moving traffic violations to all areas of England and give councils a portion of existing fuel duty to reinvest on local roads to help tackle the local roads repair backlog.
Housing and Planning Bill — empower councils to deliver the homes and infrastructure that our communities need. This includes streamlining the local plan process, providing greater clarity and certainty in planning to reduce hostile applications, giving councils greater powers to act where housebuilding has stalled, scrapping permitted development rights and devolving Right to Buy so that councils retain all receipts and can set discounts locally.
Cllr James Jamieson, LGA Chairman, said: “The next Queen’s Speech is of huge importance to councils and our communities.
“The radical legislative programme we have set out today would give councils across the country the freedoms needed to help solve some of the biggest problems facing the nation, by creating more school spaces, building more homes, boosting economic growth, improving our roads and equipping people with the skills they need to succeed.
“It would also pave the way towards a long-term, sustainable funding settlement needed to protect services into the next decade and beyond and give certainty to communities that local services can continue.
“Taking decisions over how to run local services closer to where people live is key to improving them and saving money. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already have a significant say over everything from health services to skills and transport, yet many of England’s communities are still desperate for the same freedoms.
“Renewed momentum around the devolution process is needed to empower councils to make a huge difference to their lives of people and the communities they live in.”