Opportunities for billions of pounds worth of economic growth and hundreds of thousands of new jobs and homes risk being lost as a result of “devolution deadlock” across the country.
Today (4 September) marks two years since the Government deadline for local areas to submit devolution proposals. Around 34 ambitious proposals – from cities, towns and counties across England – were submitted.
The Local Government Association is concerned that devolution progress has since “stalled” with no new deals announced for 18 months, despite many areas being keen to press forward with negotiations.
Councils want to see their communities access the full opportunities currently available to areas where devolution has taken place and ensure all parts of the country reap the benefits of having greater powers and funding to improve services such as skills, housing, transport and health and social care.
While the election of six combined authority mayors earlier this year marked a significant milestone for devolution in England, it is not the only model of devolution possible and council leaders want to explore further options for the widespread transfer of powers and responsibilities to the whole of England in order to boost the economy and improve people’s lives.
The LGA said this has become even more important if the Government is to ensure the whole nation benefits from our exit from the European Union.
Council leaders insist Brexit should not simply mean a transfer of powers from Brussels to Westminster, Holyrood, Stormont and Cardiff Bay but must lead to new legislative freedoms and flexibilities for councils so that residents and businesses benefit.
The LGA also wants the Government to urgently publish its annual devolution report, setting out progress on negotiating deals, when Parliament returns this week.
It successfully lobbied for the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act to include a duty on the Secretary of State to provide annual reports to Parliament setting out progress on devolution across England as soon as possible after 31 March.
This year’s report has yet to be published.
Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said:
“Councils want to see their communities reap the benefits of having greater powers and funding to build more homes, secure the infrastructure essential to economic growth, improve our roads, equip people with the skills they need to succeed and increase access to fast and reliable digital connectivity for all.
“But there are concerns that devolution discussions have stalled and opportunities are being missed.
“To reignite the devolution process, the Government needs to engage in a debate about appropriate governance arrangements with local areas.
“This is fundamental to ensure that the momentum around devolving powers to local areas is not lost and the billions of pounds worth of economic growth, hundreds of thousands of jobs and homes on offer through non-metropolitan devolution deals is not lost with it.”