Cllr Izzi Seccombe is the Leader of Warwickshire County Council and the Leader of the Conservative Group of the Local Government Association.
This year, the Conservative Party Conference meets at a particularly important time as we head into a new parliamentary session with a Queen’s Speech.
At the Conference, Conservative Councillors will be speaking on a huge range of subjects that matter to the future of our country, making the case for investing in councils. The recent Spending Round – which delivered a £3.5 billion funding package for councils next year – shows that the LGA is successfully demonstrating to central government that investing in the more than 800 services we provide is good for the nation’s prosperity, economic growth and health and wellbeing. Conservative Councillors are working hard to shape their communities and to deliver services for the next decade. They have been successful in changing and modernising the way that councils respond to their citizens.
What our communities now need is for the Government to use the next Queen’s Speech to deliver a legislative programme that gives councillors the powers, freedoms, flexibilities and certainty they require to continue to lead and transform their communities. We will be bringing together national politicians, councillors and policy experts, as we debate why the Queen’s Speech matters to local government. This debate is part of our #CouncilsCan campaign, where we have put forward a plan to boost public services.
Our proposals are underpinned by an English Devolution Bill that would reignite the process of devolving widespread powers and funding to local areas across the whole country. We also need a Local Government Finance Bill to pave the way towards a long-term, sustainable funding settlement for local government by allowing councils to keep all of the business rates its collects locally and to give councils full control over local taxation. Meanwhile, the Government needs to publish its proposals for the future of adult social care as soon as possible to spark a truly nationwide public debate about the value of social care and how, as a nation, we will pay for it in the years ahead.
Alongside this important work, we must ensure a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire can never happen again. We are recommending a Building Safety Bill to enshrine a tough new regulatory regime into law. And being safe in your own home also means being safe from abuse so it is great that the Government has announced it will bring back the Domestic Abuse Bill. This legislation should empower councils to tackle domestic abuse, support victims and enhance early prevention and work to prevent abuse happening in the first place.
Councillors and those standing for election can all too often be the subject of public intimidation at election time, which is partly due to the widespread use and proliferation of social media. An Electoral Bill would provide a new electoral offence of intimidatory behaviour and give the general public guidance on what is reasonable protest and comment.
Local communities should be given the powers they need to take back control. When councils have the freedoms and funding to make local decisions, there is clear and significant evidence that outcomes improve for residents.
Last year the Government used the party conference to announce the lifting of the Housing Borrowing Cap, something the LGA had been calling for on a cross-party basis for many years. Let’s hope there is more good news for local government when we get together in Manchester.