In response to the Queen’s Speech, Cllr Neil Clarke MBE, chairman of the District Councils’ Network (DCN) said: “Today’s Queen’s Speech presents a number of opportunities for district councils, namely improvements to the planning process, chances to reform local finance through business rates retention and to digitally connect economies in our areas.
“DCN is pleased to see a number of the elements it has lobbied for incorporated into the Neighbourhood Planning and Infrastructure Bill. We will continue to work with the Local Plans Expert Group to speed up the development of local plans and look forward to continue to work in collaboration with DCLG to implement the policies within the Bill.
“DCN welcomes the Local Growth and Jobs Bill and would also welcome an acceleration of the timetable for the local retention of business rates, to further incentivise district councils to continue to stimulate growth in their economies. However, with all these things, the devil is in the detail. The DCN is committed to working with the wider local government family to ensure the new scheme contributes to drive growth and support the 86 services districts deliver close to their communities.
“In relation to combined authority mayors having powers to levy business rates supplements, the DCN feels the structure and governance of local government should be determined by what works best for local areas. As with proposals for combined authorities, the redesign of public services is best determined by localities themselves; one size does not fit all.
“A significant number of district councils cover rural areas. District councils have been working hard to ensure enhanced broadband coverage in their areas and welcome increased funding and support to ensure that all businesses and residents have access to fast and reliable broadband.
“The danger is rural areas might miss out, and we hope the Government will set a strong aspiration in the Digital Economy Bill for high-speed connectivity across all parts of the country – something which will maintain the drive towards encouraging and supporting the rural economy.”