‘More notable for what was missing’ – Mayor responds to Queen’s Speech
In the Houses of Parliament this afternoon, Elizabeth II delivered the Queen’s Speech outlining the new Government’s agenda for the parliamentary session.
The speech contained more than 30 bills – pieces of proposed legislation – spanning health, education, defence, technology, transport and crime, as well as Brexit.
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, responds to the speech:
Today’s speech was more notable for what it was missing rather than what it contained – demonstrating a lack of ambition for a Government that has five years to tackle the increasing poverty and division that so many of Hackney’s residents face.
A great deal of the narrative surrounding last week’s election result has centred on the need to invest more in areas outside London. I fully support that, but it should be a levelling up of Hartlepool, Halifax and Hull, not a levelling down of Hackney.
While 1 in 17 children in Hackney will be homeless this Christmas, the speech did not mention housebuilding once – hinting purely at providing further incentives to prop up the home ownership market rather than boosting the supply of council housing.
Nor is there anything to end the decade-long attack on the welfare state, such as desperately needed reforms to Local Housing Allowance or Universal Credit. Our #BetterRenting campaign has long campaigned for a fairer deal for Hackney’s 32,000 renters, so the Renters’ Reform Bill must be brought forward without further delay.
Although it is now likely that Brexit will happen on 31 January, it is vital that the Prime Minister rules out a no-deal exit at the end of 2020. Instead, his reckless new legislation makes that more likely. In Hackney, we remain a European borough, and we’ll continue to stand up for the rights of EU nationals, who make up 15% of our residents and are scared about what is to come. We’ll press ministers to ensure their Settled Status scheme is run fairly and efficiently.
That is so vital because Hackney’s Windrush Generation knows from bitter experience how mismanaged Government bureaucracy can destroy lives and tear families apart. We welcome the introduction of legislation to enshrine the Windrush Compensation Scheme in law, and will continue to scrutinise its implementation, demanding legal aid is available.
As we have repeatedly said, the Government’s environmental legislation must – at the very least – cement existing EU rules into UK law. It is vital that the Environment Bill also devolves further powers and funding to local authorities like Hackney to enable all levels of government to take the radical action needed to respond to the climate emergency. Instead, it currently maintains an unacceptable 2050 target for net-zero carbon emissions – despite the science – and our residents – being clear that we must do more now to prevent a global catastrophe.
The Prime Minister has made clear promises of investment in the NHS, police and infrastructure across the country, which we welcome. But new spending solves nothing by itself – and doesn’t reverse nine years of austerity. The challenge now is for ministers to set out a clear plan for how this investment will benefit those in desperate need and whether it will mean a true end to austerity for local authorities supporting them on the frontline.”
Brexit and immigration
Hackney Council passed a motion calling on the Government to rule out a ‘no deal’ Brexit and extend Article 50 if necessary in January. The Council has also called for the Windrush Compensation Scheme to be simple, reasonable and transparent, and will continue to scrutinise the Windrush Compensation Scheme (Expenditure) Bill.
The Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Audit Committee have both said that the draft Environment Bill falls woefully short of the current EU protections on offer. The Council has submitted evidence to the Government calling for local authorities to be given further powers and resources to improve environmental protections and tackle the climate emergency.
Hackney Council declared a climate emergency in February, and pledged to reach zero net emissions by 2040 in June. The Mayor of Hackney gave evidence to Parliament in June, urging the Government to make sure big corporate producers and brands that sell or produce goods in plastic packaging pick up the bill for the waste they cause.
Policing and crime
Hackney Council’s Integrated Gangs Unit brings together staff from the Council, police, third-sector organisations and government agencies to tackle gang-related violent crime. It has been recognised as a good example of cross-sector working that has delivered a reduction in violent crime. Hackney has lost 1 in 4 police officers over the past decade and we need to ensure that these new officers are deployed where they are needed most.
There are over 13,000 families on Hackney Council’s housing waiting list, more than 3,000 of whom are homeless and in temporary accommodation.
Hackney is building 2,000 homes itself between 2018-22, with the majority for genuinely affordable social rent and shared ownership. Without additional Government funding, the Council is unable to build more homes or allocate a greater proportion of its housebuilding programme for social rent.
The Council’s #BetterRenting campaign has long called for a fairer deal for those in Hackney’s 32,000 privately rented properties – including the abolition of ‘Section 21’ no-fault evictions, reform to the deposit system and a national database of rogue landlords. The Renters’ Reform Bill includes all of these commitments.