Empower localities to make a success of Brexit, says think-tank

22 Mar 17

Radical powers should be devolved down to a more local level if Brexit is to be an economic success, according to the Localis think-tank.

Localis argues that the government’s national strategy to boost industry in the UK may not be right for all and that areas may want to develop their own plans for growth.

The think-tank suggests small and rural towns should be handed powers over policy areas including planning, local transport, tax-setting, business incentives and labour market freedoms.

“Each place must  take responsibility for understanding its own needs and assets and present their case to a global market of talent and investment,” the report states.

“They should take back control and develop local industrial strategies.”

Its research found two-thirds of England has no governance structure with the strength and capacity to help deliver the government’s national industrial strategy.

Forty-seven strategic authorities – covering the totality of England – are needed to make use of new locally held powers to boost economic output, The Making of an Industrial Strategy: taking back control locally report says.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy released its Building our Industrial Strategy green paper for the UK at the start of the year. It plans to boost the economy post-Brexit including by investing in science, research and innovation, developing skills and supporting businesses to start and grow.

Liam Booth-Smith, chief executive of Localis, said: “In the aftermath of triggering Article 50, the government’s industrial strategy has to address a political imperative of how the benefits of growth are fairly shared across the nation to reach these areas.”

Mark Hawthorne, chair of the Local Government Association’s people and places board, said: “We can only truly build a world-class economy if every local economy across the country is firing on all cylinders.

“For that to happen, all councils need greater freedom and funding from central government.”

Simon Edwards, director of the County Councils Network, said: “Devolving power and resources to counties at scale – rather than a heavy emphasis on the major cities and bureaucratic governance – will help rebalance the country and deliver on the government’s aims of its industrial strategy and higher regional productivity.”

Neil Clarke, chairman of the District Councils’ Network, said: "When it comes to devolution, we remain clear that one size does not fit all. It must be down to local areas to determine governance arrangements which reflect what local people and businesses want."

Business secretary Greg Clark said: “Local civic and business leaders will be central to ensuring the government’s vision of a country sharing in the prosperity of growth.”

Downing Street announced on Monday that Theresa May would trigger Article 50 – beginning the official process for leaving the European Union – on 29 March.

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