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Government springs apprenticeships bill surprise

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Local government was caught by surprise with the introduction of an apprenticeships bill in Tuesday’s Queen’s Speech.

While the majority of the speech had been well trailed in the government’s legislative announcement in the summer, the inclusion of plans to put forward draft legislation to reform apprenticeships was unexpected.

According to documents released alongside the speech, there will be a duty on the Learning & Skills Council (LSC) to oversee the new apprenticeships. Public bodies, including councils, will have to offer them.

Caroline Abrahams, the Local Government Association’s programme director for children and young people, said there would be challenges for councils as employers but also in terms of co-ordinating apprenticeships within their areas. “We will be looking at this quite closely we support the government’s direction of travel but there will be big delivery challenges. Councils are big employers for a start, but there will also be challenges around getting employers on board.”

The government has committed to delivering 500,000 UK apprenticeships by 2020. An Education & Skills bill which raises the school or training leaving age to 18 will also introduce a duty for councils to ensure young people participate in post-16 learning.

The Queen’s Speech contained little further detail of the government’s constitutional reform plans. A draft constitutional renewal bill will “clarify the role of government, both central and local”.

Queen's speech at a glance

  • New Care Quality Commission regulates health and social care

  • Homes & Communities Agency established

  • New model of children’s social care delivery

  • Councils gain powers to introduce road pricing and regulate buses

  • Infrastructure planning commission determines major projects

  • Councils partner national firms on trading standards and environmental health

  • Role of local government to be “clarified”

Main points in the Queen's Speech

Children & Young Persons Bill

A number of councils will pilot a new model of social care delivery under which they commission services from ‘social work practices’. Councils will also be expected to ensure that children in care do not move schools in years 10 and 11 “except in exceptional circumstances”.

Health & Social Care Bill

The government is set to establish a new super-regulator the Care Quality Commission to oversee health and social care in England. It is also developing a green paper exploring options for reform of social care.

Housing & Regeneration Bill

This sets up the Homes & Communities Agency, combining English Partnerships with the investment work of the Housing Corporation, and the new regulator the Office for Tenants & Social Landlords. It also brings in local planning charges to oblige developers to contribute to infrastructure costs. Meanwhile, 14 councils will be allowed to pilot local housing companies to which councils contribute land and development partners money to provide affordable homes.

Local Transport Bill

Published in draft last May, this provides councils with long-sought powers over bus services. It also gives them greater flexibility to introduce road pricing and allows for more powerful stand-alone transport authorities in urban areas.

Planning Reform Bill

The bill would establish an infrastructure planning commission to decide on ‘nationally significant’ projects, and introduces housing and planning delivery grant to reward councils that meet targets for new housing.

Regulatory Enforcement & Sanctions Bill

A bone of contention between councils and the government, this bill would create the Local Better Regulation Office, which would be allowed to nominate councils to partner national businesses for trading standards and environmental health even if the council was unwilling.

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