The Queen’s Speech today addresses some of the big issues that LGiU has been highlighting, including the need for real reform in adult social care, action on flooding and local energy, freeing up teachers from Whitehall prescription and bureaucracy, and reforming the political system. The problem is that many of the solutions proposed in these Bills are costly to implement at a time when public sector funding must be constrained and they are more centralist than localist.
One simple way for the Government to demonstrate real commitment to localism and inject local government expertise into the legislative process would be to give Councillors a strong role in the reformed second chamber. This would help strengthen the Lords, add accountability through politicians who are elected by local communities, and create a localising force in Parliament. We will be pressing for this to be a key part of the House of Lords Reform Bill.
Local Authorities know what the public finances are going to be like next year. Councils are already making tough decisions on spending so we need to hear how these ambitious proposals sit against the legislative pledge to halve the deficit in four years. Councils will clearly be required to deliver ever-increasing efficiencies in the coming decade.
These difficult times will require Whitehall to allow councils the maximum flexibility to deliver services at the best possible value for money. Today’s announcements would benefit from the realisation in Whitehall that communities get better services if the Government spent less time fiddling with the framework.
The proposals also set out to deal with rising energy prices and the threat of flooding posed by global warming.
With 4.6million people likely to be facing fuel poverty this year, the introduction of a social price to tackle fuel poverty is welcome but to succeed in eradicating fuel poverty the Government should have proposed an overhaul of the system, rather than tinkering at the edges. Local authorities should be central to this system and be given more control over funding and the direction of programmes in their local area.