Devolution hindered by endless change, IfG concludes

A report by the Institute for Government (IfG) has warned that endless ‘tinkering’ by the government in sub-regional policy has hindered the effectiveness of the devolution of powers.

All change examined three policy areas which have experienced near-constant upheaval and highlighted a ‘staggering amount of change’ across regional government and industrial policy.

In the report, the IfG outlined: “In the space of just over 20 years, the main vehicles for regional governance have included government offices, regional assemblies, regional development agencies and, currently, local enterprise partnerships.

“The governance of public services has been so continually rearranged that scholars have termed the phenomenon redisorganisation.”

According to the report, reasons provided for the churn include: disagreement about the purpose of regional government; conflict over the tier of government to which powers should be devolved; people demanding different things from regional government; opposition from incumbent local politicians; and Whitehall’s unwillingness to trust local organisations.

IfG programme director, Emma Norris, commented: “This churn is not simply the result of changes in government.

“It highlights persistent weaknesses in our system of government: the tendency to change and recreate rather than commit to stable, well-evidenced policy.”

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