Banging the devolution drum

The LGA has long called for genuine devolution to local areas

Local leaders are well placed to deliver the best outcomes for local communities.

They are also best placed to align the work of government departments and agencies with the assets and opportunities of different places.

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill, currently making its way through Parliament, presents opportunities to act upon long-running asks from councils and the LGA for further devolution in England.

We are pleased that the Government has proposed to speed up the process and make good on its commitment to offer all of England the opportunity to benefit from a devolution deal by 2030.

It is important that councils of all sizes are engaged in the devolution process.

The LGA, with the assistance of our parliamentary vice-presidents, proposed and supported amendments to the Bill, including one from Baroness Taylor of Stevenage calling on the Government to publish draft legislation for a Devolution Bill.

We also briefed MPs ahead of a recent Westminster Hall debate on the future of the UK constitution and devolution.

During the debate, Bim Afolami MP (Con) emphasised the importance of regularising local government and devolution structures across England.

He highlighted Hertfordshire, where there are district councils and a county council, while Bedfordshire, a neighbouring county, has a unitary system and, in the Tees Valley, there is a mayoralty.

He added that the powers are different in that mayoralty compared with the West Midlands, and the powers are different again in London.

Afolami also said that, if the Government was going to empower local people, there needed to be greater funding, as well as a clarification of the responsibilities between local authorities and the Treasury.

Alex Norris MP (Lab) highlighted LGA research that showed, in the four years to 2019, there were 448 separate funding pots for which councils were invited to bid, and said devolution needed to move away from a competitive bidding process in which the Government selects winning bids.

He added that, in the current system, winning councils are also long-term losers, because the money they get back is less than they have had cut from their budgets in the first place.

The LGA has been engaging with the Government on several fronts to achieve greater fiscal freedom, and ensure councils have the power to raise more money locally and greater control over how this money is spent in local areas.

We further highlighted our call for genuine devolution through the work of the Devolution All-Party Parliamentary Group, which is supported by the LGA.

A recent meeting of the group considered international examples of devolution and assessed the performance of devolution in England. The LGA gave evidence on behalf of councils, alongside an international panel of speakers.

We outlined the success of devolution and benefits to local communities where it has taken place in England, and urged government to ensure it is extended further, faster and to more places.

Highlighting LGA-commissioned research, we noted that the UK is an international outlier and one of the most fiscally centralised countries in the developed world.

We will continue to engage closely with ministers, civil servants, and parliamentarians to ensure councils are empowered to deliver for their communities.


Challenge and support

Rough road ahead…