Bills unveiled today included a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and a Schools Bill. Read the Queen’s Speech here.
Below, the County Councils Network responds to the key announcements in the Queen’s Speech, including the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill, which seeks to crystallise many of the proposals unveiled in February’s Levelling Up White Paper.
Cllr Tim Oliver, Chairman of the County Councils Network, said:
“We are pleased that the government has today introduced a Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which will put in place the legislative framework for a new approach to devolution through county deals, which the County Councils Network (CCN) has long called for. This bill will be crucial in delivering the Levelling Up White Paper’s proposals for a more flexible and pragmatic approach to devolution, devolving powers directly to county and unitary authorities, enabling the formation of upper-tier combined authorities, and providing greater flexibility over the title of a directly-elected mayor.
“CCN will support the government in developing and implementing this important legislation, alongside helping to deliver the 10 county devolution deals currently being negotiated. We urge the government to complete negotiations with these areas as soon as possible to enable the next tranche of counties to benefit from devolved powers and ensure levelling up truly reaches all four corners of England.
“It is vital that reforms to the planning system, seek to not only give residents a greater say over development, but to ensure there is enough funding in the pot for local infrastructure to be built in tandem with new developments. A survey of CCN members found that over two-thirds of county authorities felt the pressure on their infrastructure as a result of development was ‘excessive.’ While funding for affordable housing through the new infrastructure levy is important, it must provide the necessary funding to upper-tier councils to provide the vital infrastructure that makes new development both viable, and importantly, acceptable to local residents.
“CCN has long argued that local authorities continue to have a significant role to play in education, working effectively with academies in a mixed economy of local schools. The ability for councils to set up their own local authority academy trusts is a positive step, but it is imperative that the process of setting up such structures is, where locally desired, straightforward and efficient.
“Previous efforts to introduce a more equitable schools funding formula have resulted in an uplift in funding for schools in county areas, but did not substantially close the gap between urban and rural schools. We are pleased the Schools Bill contains a commitment to fund schools on the same basis, wherever they are and we urge the government to ensure that the new formula genuinely seeks to rebalance schools funding which has had an undue focus on city and urban schools for too long.
“Many of the biggest challenges that are placing enormous pressure on county authorities are beyond the scope of legislation, such as children’s services and adult social care reform, and the ongoing cost of living crisis. It is imperative that government works with local councils to find solutions to some of these issues going forward, and keep the funding issues exacerbated by higher inflation under constant review.”