Levelling up

Building back better means building back local.

The Government is expected to publish its Levelling Up White Paper later this month (Dec), and the LGA understands this will include a significant set of proposals for English devolution.

Our perspective on levelling up is that building back better means building back local. 

The Levelling Up White Paper presents an opportunity to reset the relationship between national and local government and put councils at the heart of delivering the Government’s ambitious programme to improve opportunities in all parts of the country. 

Councils have a critical role to play, have demonstrated their leadership throughout the pandemic, and are willing and able to deliver this agenda – so it is important that they are empowered to do so.

One way of doing this is by ‘levelling up devo’ – as per the findings earlier this year of an inquiry by the Devolution All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG).

The APPG recommended that government should work with local government to set out a ‘national devolution baseline’ for England, including a list of new powers available to every council without the need to negotiate a devolution deal, as well as further powers that are available subject to clear eligibility requirements. 

Devolution from Whitehall to councils should be by default and at the heart of national government policy. The LGA has long called for a rethink of the ‘culture of centralisation’ in the UK and a new devolution settlement for England, with powers and funding devolved to local communities to further improve services for everyone.

Good jobs and career opportunities where people live are central to the Government’s levelling up ambitions. 

The route to achieving this is also through greater devolution, which would empower local leaders to create local, integrated skills and employment offers tailored to the needs of local economies and residents, helping create jobs and training opportunities. 

We are working with government to ensure that changes put forward in the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill make use of local government’s expertise to deliver better outcomes, and that the bill is used as an opportunity to tackle our fragmented employment and skills system.

The LGA would welcome further steps towards defragmenting all local funding arrangements to help maximise the strength of councils’ local leadership, which was demonstrated so strongly during the pandemic. 

The Government should build on the approach to future growth funding signalled at the recent Budget and continue to retreat from a pattern of piecemeal, fragmented and short-term interventions. 

We need to move towards a localist settlement that gives councils the powers and resources to drive green and inclusive growth that meets the needs of their communities.  

The Government says its Levelling Up White Paper will build on actions it is already taking to level up across the country and will set out “bold new policy interventions to improve livelihoods and opportunities in all parts of the UK”.

Its four themes will be: empowering local leaders and communities; raising living standards, especially where they are lower; improving public services, especially where they are weaker; and enhancing people’s pride in the places they live.

None of this can be delivered without local government. Councils have demonstrated that with the right funding and freedoms, they can improve people’s lives and ensure the successful delivery of those priorities that are shared by national and local government.

Author

The LGA will publish its response to the Levelling Up White Paper at www.local.gov.uk. See www.local.gov.uk/build-back-local for more about the LGA’s ‘Build back local’ campaign

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