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Queen’s Speech aims to limit public sector pay-offs

Limiting pay-offs to public sector staff, capping the overall welfare bill and speeding up the delivery of infrastructure projects all made it into yesterday’s Queen’s Speech.

A total of 11 bills and three draft bills were laid out by the monarch at the start of the last parliamentary session before next year’s general election.

And, while addressing MPs and peers in the House of Lords, the Queen stated that the government would continue to focus on cutting the public sector deficit.

She also stated that as part of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Bill, ministers will be able to reclaim some redundancy payments from public sector employees if they return to work in the same part of the public sector, such as the NHS, within a year.

Additionally, the legislation will impose higher penalties on employers who fail to pay their staff the minimum wage. Measures will also be brought forward to limit excessive redundancy payments across the public sector.

The LGA stated that “the Bill aims to give small firms fairer access to government and other public sector procurement. It will provide for tougher penalties for firms not adhering to minimum wage rules and abusing zero hours contracts. The Bill will also prevent highly paid public sector workers claiming redundancy and returning to the same line of work within 12 months.”

However, it added that there are issues of probity in the use of public funds in redundancy payments for staff who then return to similar public service, and councils have responded with relevant rules and procedures. “However, it is important not to unduly penalise individuals who are made redundant and then regain suitable employment,” said the LGA.

The Queen also said: “My government will increase housing supply and home ownership by reforming the planning system, enabling new locally-led garden cities and supporting small house building firms. My ministers will continue to promote the Help to Buy and Right to Buy schemes to support home ownership.”

In response, the LGA added that better joint working between councils and developers is the most effective way of dealing with concerns about planning conditions and it can happen now, without waiting for legislation. Also, identifying and releasing surplus public sector land for housing should be straightforward and swift.

“The way to cut down bureaucracy and ensure that surplus public sector land for housing is released quickly is by devolving decision making over land release to the local level through a council led local land trust,” added the Association.

In a statement, Prime Minister David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg said the legislative programme ‘builds on what we have achieved as a coalition’.

But, responding to the speech, CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said that while many of the measures announced were sensible, much of the legislation was focused on short-term issues rather than on tackling the UK's big challenges.

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