Over the past year, we have continued to enjoy great success in our engagement with select committees and all-party parliamentary groups (APPGs) on a wide variety of issues that matter to councils. These sessions are a vital part of the work we do on your behalf; they help shape policy development and build consensus for local government’s policy recommendations.
Most recently, there has been a renewed focus on devolution amid encouraging signs that it’s back on the political agenda, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson committing more than £1.3 billion of extra funding to 100 towns across England. This is a positive step, and we will continue to work with the new government on a devolution settlement that delivers for you.
LGA Chairman Cllr James Jamieson set out the case for devolution at our annual conference in Bournemouth in July. He said: “We provide places where people can be safe and warm. We help equip them with the skills they need. We create vibrant economies. And we have continued to do all this during one of the most challenging times for councils.”
Building strong relationships with legislators is a key priority for the LGA and, through our high level discussions on devolution, we have already engaged with stakeholders including councils, business leaders, academics, MPs and Peers. At the same time, we have continued to work with parliamentarians, including members of the Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution APPG, to reignite the broader devolution debate.
This has formed part of our #CouncilsCan campaign, which calls for more powers and funding for local communities (see www.local.gov.uk/councils-can). A recent roundtable discussion held by the APPG, chaired by our Vice-President, Andrew Lewer MP, heard from a variety of speakers including Cllr Sue Baxter, Chair of the National Association of Local Councils; Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee; former LGA Chairman Lady Eaton; and Lord Tyler, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Constitutional and Political Reform.
The roundtable took a detailed look at our Post-Brexit England Commission’s final report, ‘The future of non-metropolitan England: the freedom to lead local places’.
This detailed evidence from 130 councils about the opportunities and benefits to local areas of devolution, including kick-starting inclusive growth, tackling the skills gap, building more affordable homes and investing in transport and infrastructure.
Speaking in Parliament, Cllr Mark Hawthorne, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, outlined the importance of a devolution settlement for all of England, commenting: “We have had devolution for our big cities, now is the time for devolution for the rest of the country.”
The importance of devolution was also debated in the Lords, with Baroness Eaton supporting our calls for a devolution settlement and “the powers, freedoms, flexibilities and funding to deliver great communities”. Lord Tyler described our commission’s final report as a “timely antidote” to the overconcentration of powers in our major cities and towns.
The APPG will continue its inquiries in the autumn, meeting after the party conferences to discuss the case for devolving skills and training provision. We will be taking forward your calls for a new devolution settlement and making sure that the policy recommendations of local government continue to be heard.