Public service chiefs slam lack of policy action in Queen’s Speech

21 Jun 17

Public service leaders have expressed dismay over the Queen’s Speech failure to address public sector issues including pay, social care and local government funding.

Today’s address laid out prime minster Theresa May’s legislative agenda for the next parliament but is far removed from the Conservative manifesto pledges she hoped to introduce.

She has been unable to push through all of her policy plans after she failed to win a majority in the bruising general election vote. The government’s weakness has been hampered further by the inability to finalise a confidence and supply arrangement with the Democratic Unionist Party.

There was no mention of May’s proposal to change the way social care was funded, pledges on grammar schools, retention of businesses rates for local councils or removal of the triple lock on state pensions.

CIPFA chief executive Rob Whiteman said “pressing issues” were missing from the speech, highlighting social care, devolution and the NHS.

He added: “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.”

This view was shared by Jo Miller, chief executive of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives, who said: “I am disappointed that key legislation – absolutely fundamental to ensuring the future sustainability of local government – has now been dropped.

“Local government urgently needs clarity around our future funding – at present we simply face a cliff edge from 2020. This must urgently be resolved.”

Claire Kober, chair of London Councils, also expressed disappointment at the lack of detail on council funding, adding she was “deeply concerned” by the absence of discussion regarding 100% business rates retention. 

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the civil service Prospect union, said this “was a missed opportunity” for the government to listen to the public over the election result.

“This was an ideal time for ministers to acknowledge that the 1% pay cap is no longer working and that public servants deserve a pay rise,” he said, adding that hard-pressed public servants would struggle to deliver a good Brexit because of bad pay and increasing world loads.

Alison Michalska, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, welcomed the measures on mental health and domestic abuse but criticised the government for not tackling funding concerns for schools and local authorities.

She said: “The government must recognise that there is not enough money in the education system rather than focusing on the way in which existing funding is distributed to schools.”

She said it was “a matter of urgency” that great clarity was provided on local government funding as children’s services face funding shortages.

Dave Prentis, Unison general secretary, claimed the government was ignoring the nation’s concerns while “ministers are living in a parallel universe”.

He said: “People have had enough of austerity, and want proper investment in schools, hospitals, police forces and local services. Yet there was none of this in the Queen’s Speech.

“Nor was there anything about pay. Nurses, teaching assistants, council workers, police support staff and other public sector employees should be rewarded for their hard work with a long overdue wage rise.” 

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