CIPFA Chief Executive, Rob Whiteman, said:
“As expected, Brexit dominated the Queen’s Speech, but there were several pressing issues that were conspicuous in their absence.
“First, there was no mention of how the government will act to ensure a sustainable health and social care system. Without urgent action, both health and social care budgets will be stretched to breaking point. More realistic medium- and long-term financial planning, and investment in prevention, is needed to stabilise the financial position of the NHS. As the top financial challenge for local government and given that it was such high priority by the government but a few weeks ago, silence on the issue of social care today is extremely concerning. There was also no mention of the drive for greater fiscal devolution away from Westminster. The UK remains one of the most centralised economies in the developed world, but a growing body of evidence supports the case for substantial fiscal powers – the ability to raise and spend money locally – to be devolved. With the incentive it creates, greater fiscal devolution can help drive economic regeneration in local areas and bring the provision of services closer to areas of local need.
“The election of English city mayors is a significant step towards that devolution, but leaving out all mention of local government from the Queen’s Speech raises concerns that certain initiatives, such as the local retention of business rates agenda, have already been kicked into the long grass.
“Of course, it is crucially important that sufficient Whitehall attention is spent on ensuring the best deal as Britain leaves the European Union, but Brexit is not a standalone issue and getting it right should not come at the expense of other public services. The government needs to be open and honest about the capacity of the civil service to deliver on its domestic priorities at the same time as negotiating Brexit.”