Mayor of Hackney Philip Glanville has taken a red marker to the government’s coming plans, set out in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, accusing it of snatching more power away from local authorities.
The speech outlined 30 pieces of proposed legislation, covering areas such as planning, education and the environment.
Glanville said it “finally revealed what the government’s levelling-up agenda means in practice”, and summarised: “Ministers want to remove our residents’ right to have a say on new developments in their neighbourhood, make it harder for them to vote, and limit their right to protest.”
Controversial voting reforms, which will require people to show photo ID at polling stations, are a “solution to a problem that does not exist”, according to the borough leader.
The government says the move will “ensure the integrity of elections”, but Glanville believes it will “disenfranchise residents without a passport or driving licence and disproportionately affect young and elderly people and those on lower incomes”.
He’s not alone in that view, with the Electoral Reform Society calling the policy “an unnecessary barrier to democratic participation”.
Glanville also reaffirmed his opposition to Whitehall’s planning reforms, which were introduced in the speech as “modernising the planning system so that more homes can be built”.
He argues that the proposals will give developers an “automatic right to planning permission without proper local scrutiny”.
Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing and planning, was even more scathing, describing the plans as “a complete disaster in the making”.
He went on: “Our concern is that ripping up planning regulations will only lead to more slum housing built to maximise profits rather than address Londoners’ needs. There’s so much more the government should be doing to invest in affordable housing and to support local councils’ housebuilding ambitions.”
Glanville did “cautiously welcome” the government’s focus on skills and post-16 education, which included the announcement of a “lifetime skills guarantee to enable flexible access to high quality education and training throughout people’s lives”, but called for a restoration of funding for further education and investment in green skills.
Whitehall pledged to “invest in new green industries to create jobs” through its Environment Bill, with the speech reasserting its targets for protecting the environment: “The United Kingdom is committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and will continue to lead the way internationally by hosting the COP26 Summit in Glasgow.”
But Glanville accused the government of “sitting on its Environment Bill for years” and, returning to an overarching theme, added: “It’s vital that it devolves further powers and funding to councils like Hackney so we can take the radical action needed to respond to the climate emergency – and make the UK a world leader in reaching net-zero emissions in the run-up to COP26 in November.”
He concluded: “Over the last year, councils have shown that they know their communities best – innovating to quickly create new services to keep residents safe, with the local knowledge needed to design and deliver public services.
“The government talks a good game on devolution – it’s time it ended central command and control and devolved the powers and resources to let us rebuild a better Hackney.”
You can read a transcript of the Queen’s Speech in full here