Alastair Lewis and Emyr Thomas provide a summary of some of the proposals in this week's Queen's Speech that would affect local authorities.
Brexit, void prorogations, leadership change and all the rest of it has meant it’s been a long time coming but the first Queen’s Speech since June 2017 has now been delivered. Whether or not any of the legislation will be enacted, given the possibility of a general election soon, is another matter.
Adult Social Care
The government has already announced that councils will be provided with access to an additional £1bn for adult and children’s social care next year. In addition, the government says it will consult on a 2% precept that will enable councils to access a further £500m for adult social care.
There will be other “legislative requirements” but there is no detail as to what they might be.
Serious Violence Bill
This will place a duty on relevant public agencies and bodies (including local authorities) to prevent and reduce serious violence.
The government says the duty will provide sufficient flexibility so that the relevant organisations will engage and work together in the most effective local partnership for any given area, whether that be a Community Safety Partnership or other multi-agency partnership such as local safeguarding arrangements. It says the legislation will enable statutory guidance that will set out the likely implications on a sector-by-sector basis.
The Bill will amend section 6(1) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which sets out the strategies Community Safety Partnerships must formulate and implement, to explicitly include serious violence.
As with adult social care, the education announcements are more about funding than new legislation. The government say they will give schools a multi-billion pound boost, investing a total of £14bn more over three years, so the core schools budget will be £7.1bn higher in 2022-23 compared to this year.
It says that this will level up minimum per-pupil funding for primary schools to £4,000 and secondary schools to £5,000, while making sure per-pupil funding for all schools can rise at least with inflation. It will be delivered directly to schools, through a single national formula.
The free schools programme will be expanded and the government says there will be an extra £400m for 16-19 year-old education next year. It will include additional investment in T Levels, supporting continued preparation for these courses and the initial delivery from September 2020.
Legislation will amend the Building Act 1984 so that Building Regulations require all new build developments to have the infrastructure to support gigabit-capable connections. Developers will be required to work with broadband companies to install gigabit-capable connections in virtually all new build developments, up to a cost cap. Whether that will be reflected in national planning policy remains to be seen.
A White Paper will be published which will provide further information on the government’s proposals for enhanced devolution across England, levelling up the powers between Mayoral Combined Authorities and increasing the number of mayors and doing more devolution deals.
The White Paper will “include detail on structural and institutional reform in England to support devolution and growth, in step with further funding”. The government says the paper will set out the levelling up agenda that the Prime Minister started in Manchester on 27 July and expanded on for the North in Rotherham at the Northern Powerhouse Summit on 13 September – covering mayors, towns, and its commitment to the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
The government says it remains committed to revitalised Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine strategies.
Some of the most radical legislation proposed in the Queen’s Speech has already been trailed to a great extent by consultation on the draft Environment (Principles and Governance) Bill. However, one aspect that has been bolstered is air quality. Legislation will increase local powers to address sources of air pollution, enabling local authorities to tackle emissions from burning coal and wood.
The Bill will implement mandatory biodiversity protections into the planning system, “ensuring new houses aren’t built at the expense of nature”. There will be Local Nature Recovery Strategies and communities will be given a greater say in the protection of local trees.
Measures to minimise waste, promote resource efficiency and move towards a circular economy will include extended producer responsibility, a consistent approach to recycling, tackling waste crime, introducing deposit return schemes and more effective litter enforcement.
On water sustainably, legislation will “make planning more robust”.
Legislation will require voters to show an approved form of photographic ID in order to vote at a polling station in a UK parliamentary election in Great Britain and local election in England. Any voter who does not have an approved form of ID will be able to apply, free of charge, for a local electoral identity document.
Legislation will also ban campaigners from handling postal votes, introducing a power to limit the number of postal votes a person may hand in, and establishing a requirement on those registered for a postal vote to re-apply every three years.
It will also limit the number of people a voter may act for as a proxy to up to two electors, regardless of their relationship and allow a wider range of people to be able to assist disabled voters in a ‘companion’ role. Returning officers will also be required to provide equipment to support voters with sight loss and other disabilities who find it difficult to vote.