Peace commission calls for roll out of devolution to non-met areas

4 Mar 15

Extending devolution to England’s non-metropolitan areas is vital to expanding economic growth and tackling skills shortages, an expert commission has concluded.

In its final report, the Independent Commission on Economic Growth and the Future of Public Services in Non-Metropolitan England has concluded that too much of the devolution debate is focused on cities at the expense of counties, towns and suburban areas, which together account for 56% of economic output.

Commission chair Sir John Peace said: ‘Outside of London, non-metropolitan areas create the majority of England’s growth, have higher productivity, a better-skilled workforce, and are where large multinational firms choose to locate. 

‘These areas are the lifeblood of our economy and global trade. However, the way spending decisions are taken in England is holding back growth.’

He added that the economy needed serious investment in housing, infrastructure and communications and the status quo could not be maintained. 

‘Greater devolution requires stronger collaboration and stronger governance. We want to see a transformation of local authorities from dependents on a finite pot of central government funding into entrepreneurial economic zones,’ Peace said.

The report makes seven recommendations, which it says should be implemented before the end of the next Parliament. These include:

  • devolution of housing, transport, skills, broadband and public services to grassroots level
  • a review of decision-making for capital projects
  • Foreign Direct Investment units to be set up within local authorities
  • a bottom-up move towards the creation of combined authorities

Responding to the report, David Hodge, chair of the LGA’s People and Places Board, which established the commission, said: ‘The commission has acknowledged the vital role that those areas of England outside the big cities play in growing the economy. These areas create the lion’s share of jobs, are home to highly skilled workers and attract investment from international firms.

‘This is a helpful report and the LGA’s People and Places Board will now examine these proposals in detail, challenge them where necessary and agree on how we can take the spirit of the commission’s findings forward.’

  • Vivienne Russell

    Vivienne Russell is managing editor of Public Finance magazine and publicfinance.co.uk

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