Below, the County Councils Network responds to the major announcements.
Cllr David Fothergill, health and social care spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said:
“A renewed commitment to social care reform is welcome, but today’s words are similar to what was announced in the 2019 Queen’s Speech. We understand that the pandemic has taken precedence, but as the country comes out the other side councils need more than just an ambition to bring proposals forward. We urge the government publish its plan for social care as soon as possible.
“Much of the recent speculation has focused on introducing a new cap on care, but reform must be more wide-ranging. As well as limiting catastrophic care costs for individuals, we must ensure up-front investment is sufficient to help increase access to services for those who needs are currently not being met, alongside sustained investment in preventative community care services.
“Our recent report with Newton showed that by investing in councils and putting them in the driving seat of reform, they could help tens of thousands of people live more independent lives, in turn reducing long-term care costs by £1.6bn annually.
“Commitments to greater integration through the Health and Care Bill are to welcome. Local government must be an equal partner in Integrated Care Systems and these bodies should be fully aligned to social care authorities’ boundaries. We also recognise the need for greater transparency in social care, but any new performance and inspection regime must be co-designed as part of wider proposals for social care reform.”
Cllr Tim Oliver, housing, planning and infrastructure spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said:
“Whilst the principle of simplifying local plans is a laudable one, we would like to see further detail about the proposed approach to zoning. We have concerns over how zoning could be applied in rural and urban locations, with county areas containing a mixture of both. It will be vital that any new system is not a blunt instrument but can respond to different geographies. It will also be important to ensure that communities continue to have a voice when plans are being drawn-up.
“This Bill also offers the opportunity to look at deeper reforms. The current system of planning in two-tier counties is fragmented, with district councils responsible for planning permissions while county councils deliver vital infrastructure. Unless today’s Bill is backed by a new approach to bringing these functions together through strategic planning, it will do little to deliver the homes this country needs and reassure existing residents that new developments will not overwhelm local infrastructure and services.
“We believe strategic planning advisory bodies, which would bring together councils, businesses, health, and environmental leaders in an area, and would allow areas to prepare plans that consider all the things that make places work for communities and businesses. Importantly this can be introduced without legislation and could provide the building blocks to plan for a strong economic recovery and assist in levelling-up the country.
“We expect the Bill to also set out reforms to the developer contributions system, which we strongly support. However, the proposed Infrastructure Levy could be based on a fixed rate set by Government which we fear may not bring in the optimum level of funding in for local infrastructure. A more flexible system, with county councils having an increased role in rate-setting, is needed if areas are to finance the roads, public spaces, and amenities necessary to go alongside new housing.”
Cllr Barry Lewis, County Councils Network spokesperson for economic growth, said:
“Today’s Queens Speech heralds the return to some form of normality for England following the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic. In tandem with a Green Industrial Revolution and the desire for good clean growth the policy landscape has changed irrevocably. We face new challenges on driving economic recovery, supporting changing industries, high streets and the jobs and skills required in a post-pandemic world to tackle societal inequalities.
“The government has therefore rightly put post-pandemic growth at the heart of the Queens Speech, and we welcome the announcements today and in particular a renewed focused through the forthcoming Levelling-Up White Paper.
“Recovery efforts, as outlined in various Bills today, are nationally devised but they will be locally delivered. County authorities stand ready to step up and deliver ambitious recovery and renewal programmes to help get their economies back to their feet, but to so it is imperative they have the right powers and resources. The Levelling-up White Paper must continue to deliver an ambitious programme of devolution and regional investment, retaining a commitment to set out a clear framework that enables counties to access devolved powers and reform local institutions.
“A new Bill on post-16 adult education could also help address the need to re-skill the workforce of tomorrow, but different economic areas have differing needs. Devolving adult education budgets to county authorities means support can be tailored to individual communities.”