The levelling up white paper is expected this month.
The Government’s rebrand of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities firmly places levelling up at the heart of its ambitions for communities, and councils eagerly await the publication of its white paper this month.
Given that it will be local leaders responsible for delivering this structural equalisation, the LGA has maintained a steady drum beat of parliamentary engagement to ensure that local authorities have the resources, funds and powers to bring about progress in our communities.
In December, LGA Chairman Cllr James Jamieson and LGA Labour Group Leader Cllr Nick Forbes gave joint oral evidence to the House of Lords Constitution Committee, to highlight the importance of putting places at the heart of the reforms.
The session, which was orientated around ‘the future governance of the UK’, saw Cllrs Forbes and Jamieson lay down LGA priorities on ending funding fragmentation, make the case for an agreed devolution framework, and outline the need to establish local government on an equal footing with central government.
As part of our parliamentary engagement, we also proactively worked to secure a House of Commons Westminster Hall debate on ‘the role of councils in levelling up’.
“We have ensured the voice of local government is considered”
Ahead of the debate, we briefed an array of cross-party MPs, outlining our priorities for levelling up all communities, from ending funding fragmentation to establishing an English devolution task force.
It was encouraging to see the responding minister, Neil O’Brien, the Minister for Levelling Up, agree with the LGA that “local councils are an absolutely central part of our levelling up agenda” and that “nobody understands the needs of a local area as well as the people elected to serve as the leadership of that area”.
The LGA took further proactive steps to brief MPs and encourage interventions ahead of a series of additional Commons debates, including two on the Government’s levelling-up agenda, and one on a discussion around high street growth, innovation and regeneration.
Through engaging with parliamentarians ahead of these important events, we have ensured the voice of local government is carefully considered in all parliamentary dialogue on levelling up.
In addition to briefing for debates, we also worked to secure commitments from ministers via a series of written parliamentary questions. We have called on ministers to consider our recent report ‘A vision for urban growth and recovery’, encouraged greater working with local leaders, and raised the concerns of those in rural communities.
The Devolution All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), sponsored by the LGA, has also been working to amplify the voice of local government in a series of (virtual) parliamentary events, including, most recently, on the constitutional reform of local government and international comparators.
The APPG has also called on the Government, through a recent report, to level up devolution and rethink a culture of centralisation that is leaving local areas behind.
In addition, we have worked with a number of select committees currently holding inquiries relevant to the LGA’s levelling-up priorities.
Engagement has taken place with the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, and the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, and we will be organising a busy timetable of meetings in the coming months.