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Readers’ reactions to the Queen’s Speech

Irwin Mitchell: An extremely brief Queens Speech – but does it tell us anything new for planning/environment?

Stuart Tym, Senior Associate in the Planning Team points out to GPSJ the inconsistencies in what was announced today

Baroness Jones spoke to the BBC prior to the Speech with particular concern about the relaxation of planning laws showing a potential disregard for the renewed environmental measures. There were few surprises for planning today – but with both the Environment Bill and the Planning Bill remaining a priority there are plenty of conflicts for the government to resolve to in legislating.

The Queen opened by introducing a parliamentary term concentrating on recovery to make the UK stronger, healthier and more prosperous – “levelling up”.  Stuart Tym asks “whether, in this context, do we still see planning as a public service?  Will the modernisation promised include effective funding and resources for the local planning authorities at the forefront of this delivery?”

The Planning Bill remains set to come forward at pace with today’s stated aim being to modernise the system; concentrating on bringing more homes forward, particularly to purchase (but also enhancing the rights of those who rent).  Stuart Tym says This remains at odds with the Environment Bill, with the requirement to reach net zero by 2050 and introduce binding environmental targets repeated, but not necessarily sitting easily with a relaxed planning system.”

There is also a natural tension between:

  1. those environmental pledges and pledges to improve national infrastructure, including bus, rail and broadband (which will need to be delivered through a modernised planning system); as well as
  2. a further conflict (in the Neighbourhood Planning Update (released in the supporting documents last night) between the short term focus on more neighbourhood planning whilst planning in the longer term for a “modern system” which provides more housing faster.

With such a brief speech there was no direct mention of whether the zonal planning system will come forward in 2 or 3 zones, the detail of modernisation which will come forward with the consultation on the White Paper not yet settled, whether virtual committees will be legislated for, or any mention of the “use it or lose it” approach to applying Council Tax to unbuilt planning permissions for housing, all mooted in the last week.

On the latter Stuart Tym has been astonished at the naivety of the suggestion. He added:   “There are too many good reasons outside of a developers control why a permitted housing scheme may stall or slow and a one size fits all tax incentive could prove disastrous for the industry.  It would in any event be more likely to hit land owners and promotors not developers in any event.”


Queen’s Speech: recovery plans biased against children

National Children’s Bureau statement on the Queen’s Speech

Anna Feuchtwang, Chief Executive of the National Children’s Bureau, told GPSJ:

“Too much of the government’s policy programme outlined in the Queen’s Speech ignores children and young people. Measures to improve integration between the NHS and adult social care, boost home ownership and encourage adult education will do little to assure the next generation that they will be able to play their part in society, reach their potential or enjoy good life chances.”

“The Government assures us that the levelling up agenda applies to all those who are disadvantaged, yet the perception remains that it’s skewed towards communities in the Midlands and the North of England. With glaring levels of child poverty within communities across the length and breadth of the country, the Queen’s Speech should have done more to reassure those on low incomes that they won’t be overlooked wherever they live. We urgently need a cross-government strategy for all children, targeting all aspects of their lives, not just those in living in certain places.”

Website link: www.ncb.org.uk/


Lifetime skills guarantee welcome

Comment to GPSJ from Paramjit Uppal, CEO and Founder of AND Digital

“Introducing measures to guarantee long term skills development is critical as the digital skills gap continues to widen. It’s encouraging to see initiatives taking shape that underline the urgent necessity for cultivating tech competency in every business. The discrepancy between the number of tech jobs businesses need and the level of training held by many people can’t be ignored – prioritising skills development will charge post-COVID economic recovery and long term business success, so the introduction of a lifetime skills guarantee by the government is welcome news.”


Social Care measures promised in Queen’s speech must unleash potential of housing-with-care

Responding to today’s Queen’s Speech, Michael Voges, Executive Director of ARCO told GPSJ: 

“Housing-with-care is ready to revolutionise social care if the Government follows through with today’s promised proposals on social care.

“Housing-with-care has proven over the past year that it is an “oven ready” solution to many of the challenges facing social care in the UK – providing good quality housing, care and support to older people,  meeting their clearly expressed wishes for more independence whilst supporting and complementing more established forms of provision.

“Today’s Queen’s Speech promised measures on social care. It is vital that these include a clear recognition of the role that housing-with-care can play in driving a supply-side revolution based on the success of the sector during the pandemic.

“The Government must also ensure that its planning proposals support its ambitions in social care and remove the barriers holding back the growth of a world class housing-with-care sector in the UK.”


Commenting on the Queen’s speech, Richard Murray, CEO of The King’s Fund told GPSJ:

‘Despite the cruel toll of the pandemic on people using social care services and the Prime Minister’s promise to ‘fix the … crisis once and for all’, the Queen’s Speech once again stops short of a meaningful commitment to reform England’s broken social care system.

The focus on supporting the NHS to recover from the last year is welcome, but for that to succeed there must be equal focus on ensuring social care and public health services also recover, along with a long-term workforce plan that addresses staff shortages, tackles staff stress and burnout by improving working cultures and recognises the impact of the last year on staff well-being.

The Health and Care Bill signals a welcome step towards delivering integrated care centred around the needs of patients. However, once the Bill is laid before Parliament, we will be examining the details closely, particularly new powers for ministers to take control of national decisions about the NHS and intervene in decisions about changes to local services.

Conspicuous by its absence from the Queen’s Speech was any reference to a public inquiry to learn the lessons from the pandemic. Work to prepare for a full public inquiry should begin immediately to learn the lessons from the last year and ensure the country is ready to face future threats. Thousands of families mourning the deaths of loved ones will want to know that the government is doing everything it can to avoid others suffering the same fate.’


Action for Children responds to the Queen’s Speech

Director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, Imran Hussain, told GPSJ:

“We won’t be able to ‘Build Back Better’ if the generation that will be the foundation for the future is weakened by poverty and a mental health crisis.  We won’t be able to level up if life chances are pushed down by deepening inequalities exposed by the pandemic.  We won’t recover as a society, unless we put all our efforts into providing greater support and investment in children. This generation of children have had their childhoods and life chances damaged and disrupted by the pandemic. So, it is disappointing to see so little detail of greater support for children in the Government’s plans.  Now is the time for the government to step up and stop sweeping children’s needs under the carpet.”


Comment to GPSJ from Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA, Skillsoft

“Over the past year, Coronavirus has shaken the economy from causing redundancies to disrupting careers across many sectors. For many, investment in skills support will be key to addressing both the disruption in the UK labour market, as well as the growing digital skills gap. Research from CBI revealed that businesses, government and individuals need to increase spending on adult education by £130bn by 2030 if they are to narrow the skills gap.

Last year, the government launched a Kickstart Scheme to help organisations employ young people and take on apprentices. This has been key to helping address the skills gap faced in the UK and help young people take advantage of the opportunities in the tech sector.

With digital transformation encroaching on all industries, the announcement today promising a skills “revolution” for England, with loans for adults wanting to retrain and more powers to deal with failing colleges, is very much welcomed. This is a vital step in growing the skills of tomorrow as well as supporting the UK economy to build back up after a year of turmoil.”


Queen’s speech – reaction from Subsidy Control expert to long awaited Bill announcement

Subsidy Control experts are calling on the Government to ensure its Subsidy Control Bill, (announced in today’s Queen’s speech), tackles the burden of red tape and streamlines the funding process, removing the uncertainty that currently exists for providers and recipients of public funding and which in turn will help in the recovery of the UK’s economy.

Parliament formally opened for a new session with the Queen’s speech announcing details on the Bill which will replace the previous EU framework around state aid that was temporarily transferred over to UK law after Brexit. The new framework developed under the Bill will determine how money should be distributed to businesses and projects.

Browne Jacobson government and infrastructure lawyer and Legal Director, Alex Kynoch told GPSJ:

“While the Government’s recent consultation on subsidy control has made it clear that a fuller suite of subsidy control rules is expected, it is useful to see confirmation of the new Subsidy Control Bill. The current approach of simply porting the requirements of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement directly into UK law without the usual legislative detail has resulted in significant uncertainty for providers and recipients of public funding, slowing down funding decisions rather than streamlining them by removing ‘red tape’. More clarity is not just to be welcomed, it will be critical to the distribution of funding and support that the Government is planning to implement as part of its wider agenda. It will also enable private recipients and co-investors to proceed with a greater degree of confidence that their projects are compliant and so not open to legal challenge.

“We are encouraging Government to take this opportunity to provide clear ‘safe harbours’ setting out subsidies which will be acceptable in advance, bypassing the requirement to undertake a fresh assessment of the subsidy control principles for each project. This, combined with a greater degree of flexibility envisaged by the new regime, will give public authorities with the tools to swiftly and efficiently deploy targeted funding to support businesses and promote a stronger economic recovery.”

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