Lord Porter is Chairman of the Local Government Association.
I was delighted that the post-election reshuffle saw Sajid Javid re-appointed as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Over the past year, my colleagues and I at the LGA have worked closely with Sajid on a number of issues, but particularly in relation to the funding of adult social care. Sajid has been a strong champion for us within Government on this issue and we are very grateful for his support which culminated in the Chancellor announcing in the Budget an extra £2 billion in funding over the next three years.
In terms of the wider DCLG Ministerial team, I welcome Alok Sharma as the new Housing Minister, congratulate Marcus Jones and Lord Bourne on their re-appointment as DCLG Ministers, welcome Jake Berry as the new Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and wish Andrew Percy all the best following his departure from the Government.
Over the past year the LGA Conservative Group has worked closely with Gavin Barwell in his role as Housing Minister in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the publication of the Housing White Paper. Whilst of course sorry that Gavin lost his seat at the election, we were delighted that he was almost immediately appointed as the Prime Minister’s new Chief of Staff.
It is very encouraging that someone with such a strong background in local government, and with whom we have an established relationship, has been appointed to this crucial position. We look forward to continuing to work with Gavin in his new role.
The Queen’s Speech last week provided us with an overview of the Government’s legislative priorities for the next two years and their implications for local government across a variety of areas.
To be blunt, the LGA is concerned that the Government has not reintroduced the Local Government Finance Bill. This was the means by which it was seeking to implement its commitment to the localisation of business rates by 2020 within a framework of stronger long-term fiscal incentives for councils to grow their local economies.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will keep the pressure on Government to commit to using its existing powers to work with local government to continue these vital reforms.
On a more positive note, we look forward to working with the Government on issues as diverse as mental health, counter terrorism, domestic violence, children’s social care, and private sector tenancies as these were all highlighted in the Queen’s Speech.
Finally, although there was no specific mention of devolution in the Queen’s Speech, I’m pleased to say that new devolution deals are not reliant on new primary legislation.
Following the recent combined authority mayoral elections – where the Conservatives won four of the six contests, including in the traditionally strong Labour areas of the West Midlands and the Tees Valley – we must maintain the momentum so that all communities, including those in non-metropolitan areas, benefit from more decisions being made locally rather than in Whitehall.