LGiU calls for radical change to give local leaders greater powers

12 Oct 17

Local leaders must be given greater powers and a constitutional role in dealing with challenges such as Brexit, industrial strategy and reforms to local government finances, says the Local Government Information Unit.

The think-tank has suggested, in a report out today, a ‘mayors’ senate’ should be set up as well as a commission on local government finances.

Beyond Devolution also recommended a constitutional settlement be created – to provide a framework and consistency over the roles and responsibilities of central and local government – and a ‘devolution reboot’.

“The change that devolution could bring about is still vital,” the report said. “Yet it seems the programme is on a knife-edge”.

The mayor’s senate would allow local government to have a “seat for local government at the top table” and have a “powerful constitutional role in shaping, revising and scrutinising government policy”.

It would be made up of directly elected mayors and initially cover Brexit but could then be expanded to cover public finances, infrastructure, service reform and government policy, the report said. 

LGiU plans to initiate the first session of the senate in early 2018.

The commission on local government finance would tackle uncertainty around business rate retention and provide a council-led systematic review of local authority finances.

The National Audit Office has warned business rate retention plans could fail to deliver financial self-sufficiency for councils and the County Councils Network has warned they could widen county councils’ funding gap.

The ‘devolution reboot’ would be a “programe of empowered regional governance”, which would mean continued devolution of powers to the regions.

The report noted: “Devolution may not be the best work to use … ‘Regional empowerment’ is what we are asking for.”

Beyond Devolution was the result of a year-long study from the LGiU’s Local Democracy Network, which is made up of up of council leaders and chief executives, as well as senior academics and experts in the public sector.

Jonathan Carr-West, chief executive at the LGiU, said: “Democracy is at a crossroads.

“We cannot rely on central government alone to guide us through the enormous challenges that lie ahead.

“We need radical change that gives greater power to civic leaders outside Westminster and an overhaul of how local areas are funded, led by local government.”

He said it was local leaders who understood the pressures faced up and down the country.

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