Conference Countdown: What local government needs from the Queen’s Speech

In last week’s spending review, we saw yet more smoke and mirrors.  Just half of the promised £3.7bn is new cash and £1.85bn will be coming from pockets of hard-pressed council tax and business rate taxpayers who are at breaking point. 

The money announced will help meet rising cost and demand pressures in 2020/21.  But not much more.

As I have said time and time again additional freedoms and flexibilities are all very well, but its new hard cash that local government needs.  This must be backed up a commitment that is not just for 12 months, but a sustainable three year plus funding settlement.  

You cannot keep kicking the “social care can” down the road, politicians have promised for more than 20 years and have still not delivered a way forward.

Equally so the crisis in children’s services keep being papered over and deferred to another day.  Local government needs the security and reassurance of a long-term settlement. 

There was some cash for homelessness – again, welcome – but no mention of investment to tackle its underlying causes.

Nothing for social housing, nor an end to the benefit freeze that is creating widespread housing insecurity.  With the loss of yet another DWP minister who knows what is going to happen.

Councils across the country are reporting to us an increase in people accessing their homeless services and are spending £1bn a year putting families in temporary accommodation enough is enough.

We heard about a youth investment fund to build and repair youth clubs, but no details.  I will put money on it that it will probably amount to a mere sticking plaster on the wounds inflicted by austerity on local youth services.

And as we all have an eye on a General Election; which just like Winter in Game of Thrones most certainly is coming; our own party’s manifesto needs to rise to these challenges as well!

Next year’s Spending Review must provide the long-term, sustainable settlement councils need in order to protect services into the next decade and beyond.  But it isn’t all about money.

As part of the Local Government Associations ongoing #CouncilsCan campaign, the LGA is also calling for the next Queen’s Speech to deliver a new localism settlement for England.  This settlement will need to reignite devolution, empowering councils to transform local areas.

With new powers, funding and long-term certainty, councils will continue to lead their local areas and improve the lives of their residents.  Giving councils the freedom and funding to make local decisions improves national outcomes. 

By building new homes, creating jobs and school places, providing dignified care, and boosting economic growth, councils support local communities to thrive.  They are trusted by people to make the right decisions for them and their family.

To turn our vision of a new localism settlement into reality, we want to an English Devolution Bill; a Local Government Finance Bill; an Education and Skills Bill; an Electoral Bill; a Domestic Abuse Bill; and a Building Safety Bill. 

This is why the next Queen’s Speech is so important to councils and communities. 

So, at this year’s Local Government Association debate at the Liberal Democrat Conference in Bournemouth, in partnership with Curtin & Co, a high-profile panel will be discussing what is needed in the Queen’s Speech.

I will be welcoming former Councillor and the newest member of our parliamentary party Angela Smith MP, Councillor Emily Smith, Leader, Vale of White Horse District Council, Dr Darren G Lilleker, Associate Professor in Political Communication, Bournemouth University and Nick Stanton, Joint Chief Executive at Curtin&Co and former Leader, London Borough of Southwark to discuss what the next Queens Speech should hold. 

Join us on Monday 16 September 1.00 pm-2.00 pm Hardy Suite, Hermitage Hotel (Exeter Road opposite the conference centre). You can see a full list of LGA Liberal Democrat and ALDC Local Government events at conference here.

Councillor Howard Sykes MBE is the Liberal Democrat Group Leader at the Local Government Association.  The LGA is a politically led, cross-party organisation that works on behalf of 415 councils (in England and Wales) to ensure local government has a strong, credible voice with national government. 

 

* Councillor Howard Sykes MBE is the Liberal Democrat Group Leader at the Local Government Association. The LGA is a politically-led, cross-party organisation that works on behalf of 415 councils to ensure local government has a strong, credible voice with national government.

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