Suffolk’s leaders on what the King’s speech means for the county – from ‘really disappointing’ to a ‘brighter future’
Party leaders across the county have weighed in on what they think the King’s speech means for Suffolk.
The first King’s speech in over 70 years sketched what will be on the Government’s mind as the next general election nears.
King Charles outlined many of the talking points of the last week, including economic growth, inflation, housing, energy security, smoking, policing, and security.
Back home, party representatives have commented on how some of these policies will impact residents living in Suffolk.
SCC deputy leader, and Conservative candidate for the new Waveney Valley constituency, Richard Rout, welcomed the speech and believes what was set out will ‘deliver a brighter future’.
He said: “For too long, Governments of all colours have taken shorter-term decisions rather than focusing on the right long-term options for both Suffolk and the country.”
Adrian Ramsay, who is Mr Rout’s Green opposition in the coming elections, however, said the speech was ‘bad news’ for the people of Suffolk.
This sentiment was also shared by Cllr Sarah Adams, who leads the Labour Party at the county level.
She said: “Sadly, I don’t think it means a huge amount to Suffolk, it’s too short on detail — I’ve seen more packed county council agendas, to be perfectly honest.”
All three representatives went on to share their thoughts on some of the different measures.
Environment and Energy Security
King Charles has long been an advocate for action on climate change and, during his speech, he asserted the UK would ‘lead action on tackling climate change and biodiversity loss’.
Suffolk has seen a great deal of new energy projects being introduced, some of which, including LionLink and Sizewell C, have been rife with criticism, making the Government’s environmental measures particularly important for the county.
Mr Ramsay believes the Government’s Offshore Petroleum Licensing Bill, which supports the future licensing of new oil and gas fields, goes against its pledge — particularly as Suffolk continues to recover from the flooding in recent weeks.
He said: “It’s a really disappointing King’s speech, and I can’t imagine that King Charles enjoyed delivering it, given the bad news for the environment that was in there.
“New licences for oil and gas will only exacerbate the climate emergency, which makes events like extreme weather and flooding even more common.
“What we need to see from the government is stronger action to protect the environment and measures to invest in renewable energy, which is what’s really going to bring down people’s fuel bills.”
Mr Rout, on the other hand, sees this bill as a driving factor in securing the country’s future energy security.
He argues: “The Prime Minister is being incredibly responsible and not making short-term popular decisions, but actually focusing on those difficult long-term choices.
“The bill safeguards hundreds of thousands of jobs nationally and, importantly, helps us to reach our net zero goal in a proportionate way.”
Although Mr Ramsay does not refute the need to ensure energy security, he thinks this should be done in a ‘joined up and integrated’ way, with less reliance on fossil fuels.
But Mr Rout maintains keeping these channels open is the ‘proportionate and pragmatic’ approach to the problem, although he said he would like to have seen more regarding a ‘holistic approach to how we generate and transmit energy’.
Economy and cost of living
With the UK, alongside the rest of the world, still suffering from high inflation and interest rates, it was no surprise that ‘increasing economic growth’ was featured early on in the speech.
Cllr Adams, however, was left ‘disappointed’ at the lack of attention brought to the cost-of-living crisis and how it is impacting residents.
She said: “The cost of living crisis is hugely important, and yet that’s only mentioned once in 78 pages of the government’s briefing — that doesn’t give you much hope for the future.”
Mr Ramsay, who shared the same sentiment, thinks the Government’s environmental policies, show how the Prime Minister is failing to ‘tackle high energy costs’ which are one of the core drivers of residents’ economic struggles.
He said: “We already have a society where people are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, particularly for those on lower incomes — there has been nothing in this King’s Speech for them.”
Similarly, despite the Government’s leasehold reform, Cllr Adams also thinks housing was a particularly neglected aspect and one which affects many across the county.
She continued: “Wa proper housebuilding program which doesn’t just see us dotting houses here, there and everywhere.
“We need something that yes, it will take a long time to do, but a successive government, of whatever political colour, could seize on because there are some things like housing where we need a proper big plan.”
Smoking reforms and social care
One of the Government’s flagship policies, announced fairly recently, and featured in yesterday’s speech, is the smoking reform which will see children born after January 1, 2009, unable to legally buy cigarettes in their lifetime.
The policy, which has been welcomed by all three party representatives, also attempts to tackle the issues surrounding vaping, an issue which has been given increased attention locally, particularly given the steep uptake in younger people.
Acknowledging this, Mr Ramsay said: “I think it’s right to look at measures that can stop more people getting addicted to smoking and help more people get away from it.#
“But I also think the devil will be in the detail about how that can be achieved.”
Both Mr Ramsay and Mr Rout, however, acknowledge there is still a lot to be done in terms of how the Government approaches smoking in the future.
Mr Rout added: “I do have concerns, but I think that this tobacco and vapes bill is an excellent first step and that a smoke-free generation is really important.”
Regarding social care, however, Cllr Adams was left let down by the lack of provisions within the Government’s policy brief.
She said: “I would have liked to see something far more concrete about adult social care and about special educational needs and disabilities.
“Those are two areas where a huge plan needs to be put in place and the amount of investment needed is enormous, and something any party worth their salt should be drawing up now.”