Today saw Prince Charles deliver the Queen’s speech for the state opening of parliament. There were mentions of Levelling Up, as well as focusing on the development of sustainable and efficient farming which will only help the government’s push towards net zero carbon emissions. Social housing was also mentioned in Her Majesty’s speech, with an emphasis on regulation in order to improve the standard of homes available as well as strengthening the rights of tenants.
The Queen was not in attendance due to mobility; however, she was represented by the Prince of Wales, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge.
Levelling Up has been one of the UK Government’s flagship agendas since before the Covid-19 pandemic, however a White Paper for the policy was only published in February 2022. Since February we have seen how the government intend to go about improve the standard of living and reducing the regional inequalities in some of the most impoverished parts of the country, however the Queen’s speech furthered how Her Majesty intends her government to go about delivering this policy. Supporting more people into work through increased and improved opportunities for people, as well as introducing reforms to education in order to allow every child to fulfil their potential regardless of their location and background will play a large part of starting to reduce these regional inequalities as well as opening up opportunities for businesses to meet their Levelling Up ambitions.
Whilst the speech also outlined how we will see a simplification of public sector procurement in order to supply more opportunities for small businesses A bill will also be brought forward to drive local growth which should empower local leaders to regenerate their areas, which is a vital part of the overarching policy.
Councillor Tim Oliver, Chairman of the County Councils Network, responded to the speech with a focus on the Schools Bill and the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill:
“We are pleased that the government has today introduced a Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill which will put in place the legislative framework for a new approach to devolution through county deals, which the County Councils Network (CCN) has long called for. This bill will be crucial in delivering the Levelling Up White Paper’s proposals for a more flexible and pragmatic approach to devolution, devolving powers directly to county and unitary authorities, enabling the formation of upper-tier combined authorities, and providing greater flexibility over the title of a directly elected mayor.
Many of the biggest challenges that are placing enormous pressure on county authorities are beyond the scope of legislation, such as children’s services and adult social care reform, and the ongoing cost of living crisis. It is imperative that government works with local councils to find solutions to some of these issues going forward and keep the funding issues exacerbated by higher inflation under constant review.”
Net zero is running alongside Levelling Up as the government is aiming for the country to be producing net zero carbon emissions by 2030 (a date that was brought forward from the original 2050 deadline) and the government will establish the UK Infrastructure Bank into legislation, with the aim of supporting economic growth and helping with the delivery of the net zero policy. The government will also bring forward an energy bill to accelerate the transition to cheaper, cleaner, and more secure energy for the country, which will be building on the success of the COP26 Summit in Glasgow last year. Alongside all this, ministers have been instructed to encourage agricultural and scientific innovation, with a goal of unlocking the potential of new technologies to promote sustainable and efficient farming and food production, all with the aim of reducing the national carbon output.
Legislation will be introduced to improve the regulation of social housing, to strengthen the right of tenants and to ensure better quality, safer homes. This will be introduced alongside a reform to the planning system that will give residents more involvement in local development. These aim to aid with the improvement of living standards as well as the funding of sustainable investments in public services, underpinned by a responsible approach to the public finances