Reboot approach to devolution, IPPR claims

A new report, published by IPPR North, has claimed that the ‘devolution revolution has stalled’, and has provided its advise on how to ‘reboot the existing process’.

Titled Rebooting devolution: A common-sense approach to taking back control, analyses the problems in the devolution process to date, which will see only six regions likely to hold elections for metro mayors in May, despite initial enthusiasm from both central and local government.

A combination of poor and unclear ‘purpose, process and timescale’ has led to ‘the devolution rhetoric is failing to match reality on the ground’. The paper argues that in order to achieve its vision of an economy that works for everyone, the government must rid itself of ‘a culture of centralised thinking in Whitehall’ and instead put the devolution of powers and responsibilities to the ‘lowest appropriate level of government’ - developing a framework of devolution differing on the level of devolution a region is seeking.

Focusing especially on non-metropolitan areas, IPPR North provides three common-sense ‘tools’ with which to reboot the existing process: an explanation as to why county geography might be the best scale from which build devolution areas; a framework of powers based upon discrete packages or ‘stages’ as a template upon which individual proposals can be based; and a set of further options to set alongside metro-mayors to ensure that devolved powers are accompanied with commensurate reform to provide visibility and accountability within the emerging local government architecture.

Furthermore, the paper urges the government to set out a timetable for future developments with clear windows for negotiation and deal-making, alongside a statement of its vision and underlying principles.

Cllr Paul Carter, chairman of the County Councils Network, said of the report: “This report rightly argues that counties have the size, scale, expertise, and coterminosity with key partner organisations to make a success of devolution, using county geographies as the springboard to deliver better and more localised services for our residents.

“In the context of the government’s aspiration to create a more balanced and productive economy, Westminster should place its faith in the strong local leadership already displayed in rural England, and remove the arbitrary requirement for a metro-mayor.”

“Counties make the biggest contribution to the national economy, yet have been blighted by years of under investment in infrastructure, historical underfunding, and skills and growth policies that have been too centralised. The government’s Industrial Strategy will be the perfect opportunity to move to the next stage of devolution, and ensure that county residents and business have the opportunity to benefit.”