Publish progress report on devolution now, LGA tells government

6 Sep 17

The Local Government Association has called on the government to urgently release its annual devolution report amid fears the process has stalled across the country.

The umbrella-group’s plea, released on Monday, marks two years since the government set a deadline for local areas to submit devolution proposals.

Around 34 proposals – from cities, towns and counties across England – have been submitted.

The LGA argues that billions of pounds worth of economic growth and hundreds of thousands of new jobs and homes risk being lost as a result of the so-called “devolution deadlock”. 

Mark Hawthorne, chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said councils wanted to use greater powers to build more homes, secure the infrastructure essential for economic growth, improve roads, close skill gaps and increase access to fast broadband but feared opportunities were being missed because devolution has “stalled”.

He added: “To reignite the devolution process, the government needs to engage in a debate about appropriate governance arrangements with local areas.

“This is fundamental to ensure that the momentum around devolving powers to local areas is not lost and the billions of pounds worth of economic growth, hundreds of thousands of jobs and homes on offer through non-metropolitan devolution deals is not lost with it.”

The LGA wants the government to publish its annual devolution report, setting out progress on negotiating deals, when parliament returns this week.

Under the Cities & Local Government Devolution Act, the secretary of state is expected to provide annual reports to parliament setting out the progress on devolution across England – this year’s report has yet to be published.

Concern has been sparked as no new deals have been announced for 18 months although the election of six combined authority mayors earlier this year was hailed as a significant milestone for devolution in England.

Council leaders said this was not the only model of devolution possible and the government should explore further options for the widespread transfer of powers and responsibilities to the whole of England to boost the economy and improve people's lives.

A Department for Communities & Local Government spokesman said: “This government is 100% committed to devolving powers to local areas where there is strong local support for plans to deliver better local services, greater value for money and clear accountability.”

Localis think-tank chief executive Liam Booth-Smith said: “The wait has simply been far too long for the two-thirds of England that lacks the capacity and robust governance structure to deliver the government’s national industrial strategy.

“Given the economic urgency of Brexit, all parts of England, from major cities to small towns, deserve new powers to revive moribund local economies and with it the opportunity to help themselves.”

Booth-Smith said a Localis report on the industrial strategy recommended the establishment of 47 strategic authorities – based on existing county and combined authority boundaries – to control devolved powers to help drive economic growth.

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