Devolving skills support

Local politicians and parliamentarians met to discuss the vital role of councils and combined authorities in helping people into work.

The first virtual meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Devolution took place in July.

Set up in 2014, the APPG provides an important cross-party space in Parliament for open discussion on the need for a new devolution settlement and for putting across the views of councils on a range of policy areas.

Andrew Lewer MP, former Leader of Derbyshire County Council and an LGA Vice-President, chairs the APPG, and is joined by members from across Parliament, including the LGA’s President, Lord Kerslake.

Following the launch of the LGA’s report on creating green jobs in June (see first 649), Cllr Kevin Bentley, Chair of the LGA’s People and Places Board, Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Vice-Chair of the LGA’s City Regions Board, and our Chairman, Cllr James Jamieson, led the discussion with parliamentarians about the vital role of councils in supporting people into employment.

COVID-19 has demonstrated how national policies are best delivered by local government’s democratically elected leaders through their insight and intelligence on the ground. Economic recovery will mean different things in different places, and the APPG event was an opportunity to highlight that recovery must be locally designed and delivered within a broad national funding and policy framework.

In particular, national skills and employment schemes – and funding – need to be devolved to councils and combined authorities, so councils can work with businesses and education providers to train and retrain people of all ages so they can benefit from new local opportunities.

The APPG heard from councils across the country about the work they are already doing to help their communities with skills and employment support in Blackpool, Portsmouth, Staffordshire and Greater Manchester.

It was clear that their unique ability to engage with partners across their local areas was the key to the success of their employment schemes, and that greater flexibility around funding and responsibilities would enable them to achieve even more.

It was also useful to hear from Mark James, Head of Skills Strategy at the Department for Education, who spoke about the Government’s ideas to make the skills system more responsive to local need.

Reflecting on the event, APPG Chair Andrew Lewer MP said the meeting “was an opportunity to discuss with parliamentarians the excellent work that local government – both councils and combined authorities – are doing to deliver skills and employment programmes, and how devolution in this area could help secure a green economic recovery”.

He added: “It was a hugely valuable exercise in discussing practical measures around the devolution agenda and securing parliamentary engagement with this. I look forward to the APPG’s next opportunity to convene, in September, on the issues of fiscal devolution.”

The APPG is an effective way for us to build support among MPs about the issues many of you have raised around skills, employment and the green economy, as well as to showcase the brilliant work councils are already doing.

We will keep the conversation going through our programme of briefings, tabling questions in Parliament and writing to ministers.

It is vital that we continue to engage with MPs across the political spectrum to make the case for a devolution settlement for local government, as we look ahead to the Devolution White Paper this autumn. The LGA’s new Re-thinking Local campaign will be key to driving this in Parliament.

For more information about the LGA’s work in Parliament, please visit www.local.gov.uk/parliament.

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