Following last week’s autumn statement, (see our on the day briefing) we have been focussed on examining what it really means for local councils. Two new LGIU briefings will be coming your way soon, with a deeper analysis of what it means for local economic development, devolution and the wider economic impacts on local authorities.
What we do know, from the autumn statement, is that the levelling up agenda is back to the fore. This week Michael Gove announced that he would be supporting an amendment to Clause 16 of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to ensure that a combined county authority would not be able to take over the functions of a district council without local consent – an announcement welcomed by the District Councils Network.
Next week we will be publishing a briefing looking at what people think about levelling up in England. Read our latest briefing on levelling up, looking at the Demos report on movers and stayers in provincial areas of England.
The main issues in the housing world this week were about building safety, with the conclusion of the Grenfell Inquiry and the coroner’s report on the death of 2-year-old Awaab Ishak, from a respiratory condition directly related to the mould in his housing association flat (see related briefing here).
Michael Gove responded to the tragic death of Awaab Ishak with an announcement that he would ‘name and shame’ social landlords that failed to meet the standards required by social housing regulators. Quite right too, but what about the underlying issues of a failure of successive governments to invest in the maintenance of social housing across the country? The bill has been, largely, left to hard-pressed local authorities to deal with, as usual.
The autumn statement has also revealed that the whole issue of the costs of social care have been pushed back for another couple of years. The social care cost cap has been delayed for two years and the government’s excuse for that is that local authorities are not in a financial position to deliver it. Without additional resources, of course, we are not!
The easing of the cap on council tax, without a local referendum – from 3% to 5% – will have a minimal impact on what local councils can spend on social care (even though 2% of that council tax rise has to be spent on social care). The percentage of local councils’ annual funding that comes from local taxation (and retention of business rates), rather than from national government funding, varies considerably across the country, and our national government funding is generally ringfenced so we have little flexibility to spend it on what we believe to be local priorities.
Asylum seekers, refugees and migrants
Local councils are rising to the challenge of the government’s redistribution of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants around the country. The immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, this week announced that asylum seekers will be housed in smaller cities and towns across the UK. All we ask, minister, is where they are going, what their needs are, and how we can support them. Without that information, local councils will be less prepared to meet that challenge.
See here the bundle on refugees:
So COP 27 has ended with little in the way of any new major commitments on carbon emissions. The main headline is that we will now pay a contribution towards the cost of rebuilding communities that have been devastated by the impact of climate change. A total of 196 countries have signed off the agreement to the loss and damage fund. That should have been agreed years before now, of course, but, in relation to the climate change agenda, are we closing the stable door after the horse has, long since, bolted?
See our recent Global Local bulletin on the issue:
So the FIFA World Cup has started and it is situated in the middle east for the first time ever. What a surprise that it is in an oil rich country with no concern for human rights – money talks for FIFA. England might have beaten Iran 6-2 and Wales might have scabbed a 1-1 draw with the USA but what was missing from last Monday’s games?
We were promised that Harry Kane and Gareth Bale, the respective captains of England and Wales would both wear a ‘One Love’ captain’s armband to promote LGBTQ+ rights in a country that criminalises homosexuality. We were also told that the English and Welsh football associations supported this stance by their national teams. What happened? FIFA threatened both teams, and their captains, with possible suspensions from the tournament if they ‘offended’ their ‘hosts’ with such statements.
The English and Welsh FAs, and their respective captains, all backed down. Someone said sport and politics don’t mix. We think they do and that you should stand up for your convictions.