Levelling up

The LGA continues to provide support to councils on devolution

Just over a year ago, the Government published its long-awaited Levelling Up White Paper, setting out its vision for tackling inequality across the country.

At the time, the LGA responded positively to the White Paper’s devolution framework proposal and the commitment that every area that wants a devolution deal will be offered one by 2030.

We also welcomed confirmation of councils’ role in shaping the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the replacement for the European Structural and Investment Fund.

But we were cautious about the proposal to create a new independent data body, stressing that local government has a very strong track record of data transparency.

A lot has happened since then.

Deals were first struck in North Yorkshire and the East Midlands, and the autumn brought new devolution proposals for Norfolk, Suffolk, Cornwall and the North East of England. There is also a great deal of anticipation surrounding the forthcoming ‘trailblazer’ deals for Greater Manchester and the West Midlands, with the Autumn Statement suggesting department-style financial settlements as part of the next Spending Review.

“We have called for a new approach to public service investment”

In response, the LGA has continued to develop and deliver support to councils by: expanding our devolution hub; running a series of successful webinars; providing independent advice to councils going through the process of negotiation; and sending our monthly devolution bulletin to more than 3,000 subscribers. Sign up, if you’re not already receiving your copy.

Elsewhere, the cause of devolution and local leadership received a further boost from former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Commission on the UK’s Future.

This included proposals that would legally require decisions to be taken as close as meaningfully and practicably possible to the people affected by them, and a new constitutional requirement protecting the political and financial autonomy of local government.

The LGA has explored the case for greater independence for councils before, and will be watching carefully to see how these plans develop.

On the question of funding, while the White Paper committed to streamlining local growth funding by reducing the number of individual funding pots, the recent experience of the Levelling Up Fund shows there is still some way to go.

The LGA has called for levelling up funds to be allocated based on robust evidence, not costly competitive bids between local areas.

Moreover, as part of our letter to the Chancellor ahead of this month’s Budget (see ‘Budget submission’), we have called for a new approach to public service investment. This would build on the experience of whole-place community budgets and initiatives such as the Troubled Families programme, and ask areas to come forward with radical proposals to bring together budgets and public services under the leadership of local government.

Finally, the LGA’s policy boards continue to explore the opportunities for devolution and place-based leadership.

As Chair of the People and Places Board, I’m pleased to launch the final report of the LGA’s Levelling Up Locally Inquiry, which I co-chaired with Mayor Marvin Rees, Chair of the LGA’s City Regions Board, on 14 March.

On 22 March, Mayor Rees is hosting the Second Urban Summit as part of the LGA’s Future of Cities project.


Children’s social care implementation

Budget submission