‘Riding roughshod over local democracy’ – Mayor responds to Queen’s Speech
- Credit: PA
Mayor of Hackney, Philip Glanville blasted the government for what he calls "a levelling up agenda" to centralise power in Whitehall and ride "roughshod over local democracy".
The mayor was responding to the Queen's speech, which outlines the government's plans for the next parliamentary session.
It contained 30 proposed new laws covering a range of topics including planning, policing, further education, the environment and adult social care.
Mayor Glanville said: “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."
On behalf of the government on May 11 the Queen spoke of a priority to deliver a national recovery from Covid with "level up" opportunities.
Levelling up, a government spokesperson explained, means improving living standards and growing the private sector, particularly where it is weak, by creating new jobs, boosting training and growing productivity in places of economic decline.
However, Hackney's mayor believes proposed legislation included in the speech could disenfranchise residents, such as a bill "forcing" voters to produce photo ID.
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"It is a solution to a problem that simply does not exist," he said.
The government however, claims in the current system there is an "unacceptable" potential for electoral fraud" and that strengthening the integrity of the electoral system will improve public confidence.
It is proposed that photo ID will not be limited to UK passports or driving licenses and research compiled by the Cabinet Office shows that 91 per cent of electors already have a form of acceptable identification.
Those without photo ID would need to get a free Voter Card to take part in elections.
Mayor Glanville criticised the "automatic right" planned to be given to developers for planning permission without "proper local scrutiny" and only committing to publishing a response to consultation rather than legislation on its pledge to ban no-fault Section 21 evictions.
He spoke of "eye-watering bills" for hundreds of leaseholders in Hackney, four years on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, due to the "government’s failure to grip fire safety".
The mayor said: "This is at a time when residents' concern and scrutiny around the design, affordability, location and sustainability of new homes is increasing."
A government spokesperson responded to the criticism by saying: "Our planning reforms will modernise the planning system, so that more homes can be built, while giving communities a greater voice from the start of the planning process.”
The mayor "cautiously welcomed" the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill but added that the government had been "sitting on it's Environment Bill for years.
He said: "It’s vital that [the government] devolves further powers and funding to councils like Hackney so we can take the radical action needed to respond to the climate emergency."
He also urged ministers to "deliver on their longstanding promise to reform adult social care, and provide local authorities with the funding they need to provide the frontline services residents deserve".
The mayor 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."
A spokesperson for the government stated: "The legislation announced in the Queen’s Speech will make the United Kingdom stronger, healthier and more prosperous, levelling up opportunities across the country.
“We will continue to devolve power to people and places across the UK.
Our plans for strengthening local accountable leadership will now be included in the Levelling Up White Paper so that decisions on local leadership can be taken alongside our wider plans on levelling up."
They add that local authorities have been given access to £6 billion to address pressures on public services and over £1 billion of additional funding for social care in 2021-22.