Today’s Queen’s Speech laid out the government’s legislative agenda, including policies on infrastructure, broadband, social care, and devolution.
This reflects many of the County Councils Network’s priorities for the new government, which you can download here.
Below, the CCN’s chairman responds:
Cllr David Williams, chairman of the County Councils Network, said:
“Earlier this week the County Councils Network released its priorities for the new government, which we believe chimes with many of its domestic aims to ‘level-up’ parts of the country. Indeed, many of our councils’ priorities are outlined in today’s Queen’s Speech, ranging from greater infrastructure investment to the rollout of faster broadband to more areas.
“Devolution, and the ability for shire counties to access funding and levers currently afforded to urban metro-mayors, will be crucial to the success of the levelling up agenda. Therefore, we welcome this government’s re-commitment to publishing a devolution white paper next year. It is imperative that the proposals provide a clear framework to outline how local discussions can achieve deals, but crucially does not restrict the most ambitious deals being limited to urban metro-mayors. County authorities must be the building blocks of future devolution deals and any supporting structural and institutional reform.
“Today’s confirmation of an uplift in NHS funding, alongside the additional £1bn per year for social care, is extremely welcome for our communities. However, the government must recognise that the health service and adult social care are two sides of the same coin; we support their aims for a consensus over funding and reform for care services and we urge ministers to begin these discussions as soon as possible. As the largest social care providers in the country, it is imperative that counties must be an integral part of these cross-party discussions.
“To assist in levelling up left-behind parts of the country, the government should consider formally re-introducing strategic planning in county areas in the forthcoming Planning White Paper. This would allow authorities to better plan and link up housing and jobs with strategic infrastructure – such as roads, bus routes, and rail – across areas, responding to local need and markets.
“Our high-streets and small businesses will welcome the reduction in business rates. However, in the short term, it is imperative that councils are fully compensated for any loss of income. The government has committed to a ‘fundamental’ review of business rates. CCN believe that, as part of this review, we must consider whether the policy of making councils more reliant on this tax as a source of their income remains viable in the long-term. Continuous centrally imposed reductions in business rates undermine the arguments it can incentivise councils to promote growth and provide a sustainable income stream for demand-led services.
“Elsewhere, we stand ready and willing to work with government on the other agendas that do not require legislation, namely local government finance. We urge the government to re-affirm its commitment to the Fair Funding Review and for ministers to provide an uplift in funds to councils to address growing pressures in special educational needs support and children’s services, building on the government’s welcome intervention last September in the Spending Round. A fairer distribution of finance for councils, alongside additional funds, will go a long way to helping level up the left-behind areas in shire counties.”