Reignite the devolution process to boost local services

The Local Government Association has stressed that the Queen’s Speech needs to reignite the devolution process to ensure all parts of England reap the benefits of having greater powers.

Council leaders said that the issues facing our communities and local services, such as housing, transport, housing and health and social care, must be top of the government’s legislative agenda.

Therefore, it has set out radical plans for how the Queen’s Speech - currently planned for October 14 – could be used by the Prime Minister to release the government’s centralised grip of budgets and spending priorities across England. This would allow local areas to make decisions on how money is spent and design services that work for their communities and reduce demand for higher cost national services.

The associations seven-point plan looks at an English Devolution Bill, seeking greater powers and funding for councils  to build more homes, secure the infrastructure essential to economic growth, and equip people with the skills they need to succeed. This is alongside the Local Government Finance Bill, which the LGA argues should pave the way for local government to keep 100 per cent of business rates and boost local services, and set business rate discounts.

Additionally, council leaders claim that the government needs to publish its proposals for the future of adult social care as soon as possible, and that the Building Safety Bill should implement the Hackitt Review recommendations and enshrine a tough new building safety system into law.

Also looking at transport and roads, the seven-point plan says that the government should give councils oversight of local transport systems by providing automatic access to franchising powers to all areas, empower councils to deliver the homes and infrastructure that our communities need and ensure that the Electoral Bill should provide a new electoral offence of intimidatory behaviour, and provide guidance for the general public on what is reasonable protest and comment to improve civility in public life.

James Jamieson, LGA chairman, said: “The next Queen’s Speech is of huge importance to councils and our communities. The radical legislative programme we have set out today would give councils across the country the freedoms needed to help solve some of the biggest problems facing the nation, by creating more school spaces, building more homes, boosting economic growth, improving our roads and equipping people with the skills they need to succeed.

“It would also pave the way towards a long-term, sustainable funding settlement needed to protect services into the next decade and beyond and give certainty to communities that local services can continue. Taking decisions over how to run local services closer to where people live is key to improving them and saving money. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland already have a significant say over everything from health services to skills and transport, yet many of England’s communities are still desperate for the same freedoms.

“Renewed momentum around the devolution process is needed to empower councils to make a huge difference to their lives of people and the communities they live in.”