Roundtable: The Queen's Speech

What does the Queen's Speech mean for local government?

Simon Parker, director, New Local Government Network

The pressure for a new settlement in British government has been building up for decades. With this Queen's Speech, the dam has burst and a flurry of constitutional change is hitting the country all at once.

Over the coming years, the Conservatives will reshape the country with major devolution plans for Scotland and Wales and the Northern cities, along with a possible exit from the EU and the more distant question of scrapping the Human Rights Act.

Historians will remember this as a remarkable moment in the country's constitutional history, but they will also record that the new settlement raised more questions than it answered. The biggest of these for local government is surely the fact that its new freedoms do not include control of its own financial destiny, a fact that will surely come back to haunt ministers over the coming years.

Paul Dossett, head of local government, Grant Thornton UK

Paul Dossett, Grant Thornton UK.

The cities devolution bill is an inspired, game-changing piece of legislation. City devolution has the potential to enable more innovative and efficient public services, joined-up and tailored to local circumstances and outcomes, and investment in local economic priorities that can support business growth. Proposals for integrated health and social care should complement this.

As well as looking at devolution to major cities, the Government does also need to think about smaller metropolitan areas and London boroughs. It is these councils, many of which have seen some of the biggest spending cuts to date and Grant Thornton analysis shows have significant financial resilience issues, which could benefit from the innovation and joined up services that greater flexibility or devolution could bring. Counties could also benefit from greater flexibility to support economic growth.

Neil McInroy, chief executive, Centre for Local Economic Strategies

Neil McInroy, Centre for Local Economic Strategies.

Devolution is intrinsically linked to cuts and austerity. The extent to which devolution can be virtuous and good with a rapidly decreasing public purse is an unanswered question.

It does mean that responsibility for austerity, at least in terms of spending, is passed over and that's a double-edged sword. Treasury will still control the actual inputs. Greater Manchester, for example, is getting its £6bn health budget but what is to say that won't be £5bn or £4bn in a future Spending Review? Where is the lock? Is there a lock?

I think many local authorities are placing lots of hope in devolution; they see it as a way of shrugging off the oppressive yoke of centralism. I fear that hope will not be as big or as significant as local government would wish.

There has been quite significant over-exuberance over the devolution agenda led politically by central government and supported by a number of commentators and government-friendly think tanks. We've got a kind of group think going on that says 'isn't this devolution bloody marvellous?' But we need to see exactly what this is, how much Treasury relinquishes control - that's the acid test.

The 'willy-nillyism' in cities, a bit more for Scotland, a bit more for Wales, a bit of English votes for English laws in Westminster - all of this is creating a sugary fudge. It might stick, it might work, but I think it will unravel. This is a recipe for winners and losers.

Katja Hall, deputy director-general, Confederation of British Industry

Giving city-regions greater control of budgets where they are proving their value is the right approach. With strong and collaborative leadership, the devolution of key powers could accelerate growth across the country. Where there is an economic case for further devolution, business will support it.

Building a Northern Powerhouse should spur investment in our vibrant cities from Liverpool to Leeds to Newcastle, to create an economic power in the North to rival clusters around the world.

Jon White, UK managing director, Turner & Townsend

Jon White, Turner & Townsend.The new Government has already invested so much political capital in the idea of English city devolution that it has to work - and be seen to work.

But its insistence that cities embrace the mayor-led model favoured by Manchester could prove an early stumbling block. Several other city authorities have shown reluctance to accept a directly elected mayor in return for the extra money - and power - being offered under devolution.

Ultimately, the debate about mayors is likely to be a short-lived sideshow. The case for devolved power - and the opportunities it will bring for regional businesses, jobs and skills - is compelling.

But it does present big challenges, too. The devolved authorities will have to build their capability quickly to deliver much bigger projects and demonstrate that they are providing value for money. It is only by demonstrating that their initial tranche of money is being spent wisely, efficiently and effectively that they will be able to unlock more funds.

Despite its huge potential, devolution would be disastrous if it leads to a patchwork of piecemeal approaches. The devolved authorities must never lose sight of the bigger picture, and ensure that their plans fit in seamlessly to Britain's national infrastructure.

Alister Scott, professor of environment and spatial planning, Birmingham City University

Professor Alister Scott, Birmingham City University. The Right to Buy extension in the housing bill is more about creating a new class of Tory voters, rather than a series of coherent measures to deal with the housing crisis. It actually will add to the problem and lead to a sell-off of stock in areas where there is acute need.

This is a double whammy and bad news for the provision of social housing.

Housing associations will lose their stock and then local authorities will lose their highest price stock of council housing, having to provide money for new buildings. Past history has shown that the replacements will not keep up with the losses and the spatial impact of where these houses are lost will be significant and will worsen the housing waiting lists.

Janet Morrison, chief executive, Independent Age

Some of the measures in the Queen's Speech could herald a new approach to how we deliver local services for older people, for example in the cities devolution bill. But to truly deliver on its promise of security and dignity in retirement, older people need the Government to act much more boldly over the next five years. 

To meet the aspirations of an ageing population, the housing bill needs to prioritise new housebuilding for people in later life. Homes built specifically for older people have decreased from 30,000 per year in the 1980s to 8,000 per year today.

The Government also needs to be much clearer about what action it will take to arrest the decline in the council help and local care services older people need to remain independent at home. These challenges must not be ducked, but the Government risks being silent on some of the issues older people care about most.