England rated UK’s worst performer in devolving power

19 Jul 19

Devolution has “struggled to take root in England” compared to other UK countries, according to Akash Paun, senior fellow at the Institute for Government think tank.

Speaking at an event in London to launch a collection of essays on devolution by a number of experts yesterday, report co-author Paun said: “Devolution has struggled to take root in England because there’s no bottom up pressure the way we see in the regions.”

He argued that although there is “no single metric to asses such a complex set of reforms,” there has been greater progress in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

The policy – introduced by Labour prime minister Tony Blair in 1999 – has been successful in that it has “enhanced the legitimacy of the political system” by giving people the sense that they are being governed by more local institutions, Paun suggested.

In Northern Ireland, despite political upheaval in recent years, devolution remains the most popular form of government, he said.

Another speaker at the event, Rachel Ormston, social researcher at Ipsos Mori, commented: “If public trust in Whitehall was meant to be improved then it has definitely not worked.”

However in Scotland and Wales data shows that devolution has been successful in creating trust, Ormston added.

Tony Travers, a professor at the department of government at the London School of Economics, also spoke at the event.

He supported Paun’s claim that England has been less successful than Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in devolving powers.

“England remains an incredibly centralised country…central government still sets most taxes and decisions about public services are handled in Whitehall,” he said.

“There is still a long way to go in England,” Travers noted, adding that devolution in England often ignores places that do not have a major city such as the East Midlands.

The concerns over the differences within the UK over devolution come just months after the IfG warned that Brexit is likely to strain relations between UK countries.

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