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Jun 21

Policy update // The Queen’s Speech 2017

Policy

State Opening of Parliament 2017

The Queen’s Speech was delivered today, amid continued uncertainty about whether PM Theresa May can rely on a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the DUP to shore up her minority administration.

With a Hung Parliament and without the majority and mandate needed to pursue a full programme for government, the Queen’s Speech was unusually short. Yet there were still 27 new pieces of legislation announced.

The vote in the House of Commons to approve the Queen’s Speech will not be until next week, and there will now be days of debate and amendments laid by opposition parties. With the Government in a weakened position after the snap election, we can expect them to be pushed from all directions on the legislative framework they have laid out.

Delivering Brexit is the priority – but what are the priorities for Brexit?

As anticipated, legislation for leaving the European Union was a key part of the Queen’s Speech – with a pledge to secure the “best possible deal”. But there are still a multitude of unknowns to be thrashed out.

New Brexit related legislation, along with the Repeal Bill, was announced for national policies to replace EU ones: on Customs, Trade, Immigration, International Sanctions, Nuclear Safeguards, Agriculture, Fisheries.

Details on all are still slim. There are opportunities for new VAT arrangements under the Customs Bill, and we’ll be working with partners across the sector to ensure these are favourable to the VCSE sector. The new Immigration Bill will end free movement and allow the UK to make new immigration laws regarding EU nationals – and it is important that the sector has its say on the impact of this.

There was commitment to build the “widest possible consensus” in leaving the EU– and this is absolutely vial. We have set up a Future Places network to provide a platform for members to debate what a post-Brexit vision for communities looks like and to influence the agenda.

It will be based around three themes: community economic development, community engagement, community cohesion. To find out more and to get involved get in touch with

Direction of austerity and public services?

There has been much speculation over the last few weeks about what the result of the general election means for austerity. The strong turnout for Labour’s anti-austerity message, and the denial of a majority for the Tories, has had some calling for a new economic direction. The Grenfell Tower tragedy and the devastating loss of life has also brought the injustices of austerity painfully into public debate.

The Chancellor Philip Hammond speaking earlier this week said the Government has “heard the message” on austerity – yet he also continued to stress the importance of “living within our means.”

The Queen’s Speech shed a little clarifying light on future economic policy: there was commitment to “continue to improve the public finances, while keeping taxes low” – which sounds more like we are staying the course with austerity.

Public services and local government finances are already squeezed to the absolute limit. Political and public support for continued cuts has waned, and local government leaders continue to call on the government for an urgent review of financial sustainability of local budgets.

Other new legislation and announcements

  • Tenant’s Fees Bill – Will ban landlords and lettings agents from charging ‘lettings fees’
  • Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill – with a new Domestic Violence and Abuse Commissioner, new definitions for domestic abuse
  • New Independent Public Advocate – to support victims and families of public disasters, following the Grenfell Tower fire
  • Reform of mental health legislation and prioritisation of mental health within the NHS
  • Commitments to tackle the gender pay gap
  • Consultation on Social Care reform.

Other political news

In other political news – there has been some re-shuffling of ministerial positions. The new Charities’ Minister, still based in DCMS, is Tracey Crouch. She is also Minister for Sport – and this has been her passion – so we will be hoping she embraces her new role with similar enthusiasm and commitment. Alok Sharma has been appointed new Minister for Housing and Planning. Jake Berry has replaced Andrew Percy as Northern Powerhouse Minister and Marcus Jones has been reappointed Minister for Local Government. But there is no word as yet on where responsibility for communities will lie.

We’ll be meeting with new Ministers – and their Shadow counterparts on the Labour frontbench – over the coming weeks. We’ll be continuing to press our four key priorities which we outlined as part of our general election campaign:

  1.  Greater community ownership of assets
  2. Continued devolution of power
  3. The value of local organisations in public services
  4. More housing owned or managed by community groups.

With so much uncertainty around our national political direction at the moment, our sector is more important than ever in demonstrating the power of place and community, and the importance of local, collaborative leadership.

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