MPs urge for greater transparency on devolution

A number of MPs have criticised councils for not consulting the public enough about its devolution plans, and have called upon local authorities to operate with better transparency with regard to their new powers.

In a report, the Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee welcomed the policy to devolve powers of housing, transport and planning to councils, but claimed there was a ‘significant lack of public consultation’ in the process.

The study, entitled ‘Devolution: The next five years and beyond’, outlined that engagement with the general public should not halt once devolution deals are completed and that they should be continually consulted on their experience of how devolved powers are working.

The report concludes by recommending that all information regarding the deals, including proposals, plans and negotiations, should be published online so that it is easily accessible to the public. It also adds that the division of roles for who is accountable for public services should be clearly laid out in final deals.

Clive Betts MP, chair of the CLG Committee, said: “As a Committee, we strongly support the principle of devolution and welcome its prominent place on the government's agenda. We believe that the current arrangements should only be a first step towards a much bigger devolution settlement and that devolution should be the default across all government departments.

“If we are to achieve this local leaders and the government must make far greater efforts to communicate with and engage the public so they embrace devolution as a positive development too.

“People rightly want to be involved in discussions and negotiations affecting their communities and local leaders and government need to up their game to make the devolution process as transparent and engaging as possible.’

In response to the suggestions made in the CLG’s report, Lord Porter, Local Government Association (LGA) chairman, said: “We celebrate those places which have achieved devolution deals, but as this report makes clear, these opportunities need to be extended across all areas of the country. Like the Committee, we urge government to keep up the momentum in their discussions with non-metropolitan areas to ensure that all areas of England can benefit.

“Devolution is a massive opportunity to help ensure services are tailored to best meet the needs of local people and we want to see ambition from government departments that matches that of local places in considering the powers devolved and different models of governance appropriate to both cities and county areas.

“Places should also be able to build on their initial deals and take advantage of a broader range of powers to fully capitalise on the opportunities for their communities and businesses.

"While it is right that devolution deals are not imposed, but negotiated and secured by local places, we recognise the need for greater public engagement throughout the deal-making process and are working with councils to support them in this."

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