Jonathan Carr-West, Chief Executive, LGiU, said:
“The big question about this government is whether it represents continuity or radical change. This was the most ambitious Queen’s Speech we have seen for some years, seeking to signal that the Government has ambitions beyond Brexit with a wide-ranging domestic policy agenda. But while for many it will be an agenda full of novelty, for English local government there’s an element of Groundhog Day.
A commitment to achieving a cross-party consensus on a sustainable social care system is right, of course, but we’ve heard it all before. A social care green paper was initially promised two and a half years ago. Are we building on that work or starting again? (And, of course, it’s the NHS, not social care that gets funding enshrined in law.)
English councils will be worried by the promise of a fundamental review of business rates and only partially reassured by the commitment to “consider input from the sector”. Either way, it feels that we are as far as ever from a sustainable funding system for local government.
A commitment to further devolution in England should be welcomed. It’s essential that we give local communities more control over the places they live, but we must learn the lessons from the devolution process of 2015 and ensure that we do not focus on process and growth at the expense of democracy and public service reform.
In Scotland, interest is likely to focus on the broader issues addressed in the Queen’s Speech, Brexit, climate change and a commitment to a constitutional review. Across all these areas, the stage seems set for a constitutional showdown between Westminster and Holyrood. It is clear that we are heading for a difficult period with a UK civil service trying to work with trust and integrity for two very different governments. The key rub will be how the Barnett consequential monies for the NHS and other services are used and applied. And where will that leave local government funding.
It’s also essential that UK local government’s voice is heard in the broader constitutional review and that we seize this opportunity to rethink and refound the relationship between central and local government and between local government and the communities it serves.
Councils should welcome a renewed focus on all these issues from a new government with new impetus. But not at the cost of going back to square one.”
Read our member-only briefings on the December 2019 Queen’s Speech: