With the local elections over, and with one of the longest sessions of Parliament in recent history now at an end, thoughts in Whitehall are turning to future legislation.
Time was that local government promoted legislation in Parliament. In the late 19th Century in particular major bills, such as on Public Health, were initiated by councils. When the Queen addresses Parliament this week, it would be good if those words “my government” meant local as well as central government. In this spirit we at LGiU are keen to test the government’s commitment to localism by pushing for a range of bills that meet the priorities of local government.
Here I set out five ideas for the an alternative Local Government Queen’s Speech. I am very keen to hear your views – either send me a tweet or leave a comment in the space below.
The Community Budgets Bill will introduce community budgets in every local authority area, they will implement the findings from the Total Place and Community Budget pilots. A major part of the bill will ensure through statutory direction that all Whitehall departments and all the local public services that they sponsor, from policing to healthcare, are required to work with local authorities in a community budgeting approach.
The Localism and Statutory Duties Bill will repeal outdated, unnecessary or burdensome statutory duties. There are over a 1000 duties currently placed on local authorities, acting as a major constraint to local initiative and determination of priorities. Whilst the government will want to maintain the force of some of these duties, this new bill will repeal those that are outdated, unnecessary, or inappropriately burdensome on councils. In addition, the bill will introduce a new ‘Right to Request Exemption’ that councils can use where they wish to be exempted from particular statutory duties.
The Social Care Funding Bill will be announced although not published until later in the Parliamentary session. Its inclusion in the Queen’s Speech will signal the government’s intention to legislate following the consultation on the social care funding white paper that is due out soon. This pro-active move by the government will allay concerns that social care funding reform will be put into the long grass until after the next election.
The Children’s Services Bill will help address a number of priorities, including improvements to adoption processes, and reforms to accompany changes to councils role in the education system. The bill will bring academies and free schools within the scope of councils to implement their duty to oversee the provision of places and fair admissions.
The Primary Justice Bill will promote the localisation of elements of the justice system. In particular, it will give local communities an enhanced role in administering ‘community justice’, and will give local authorities a co-ordinating role in the currently fragmented relationships between probation, the courts service, policing and prisons services.
Together these five bills would embed the decentralisation of power from Westminster to local councils and the communities they serve.
This article was first published by the Local Government Chronicle