'Highest level of ambition’ needed for devolution

The County Councils Network is urging the government to show the ‘highest level of ambition’ for devolution and levelling up in county and rural areas – and for ‘no let-up’ once the first tranche of deals are agreed.

It expected that a small number devolution deals could be announced alongside the Levelling Up White Paper, due later this year. At the CCN Annual Conference 2021, chairman Tim Oliver is stressing that the government must not stop there and go further once the first deals are agreed.

Oliver will say it is imperative that more deals are agreed in the next 12 months, with substantive powers and funding made available directly to county local authorities. He will warn that failure to do so could risk leaving large parts of the country behind in the levelling up agenda.

His speech comes ahead of the launch of a new report by Grant Thornton UK LLP, which argues that county authorities should have parity with the funding and powers of existing devolution deals agreed with the major cities. The independent assessment concludes that mayoral combined authorities are not the most suitable model for county deals.

The analysis shows that if devolved investment funds on the same per person scale as those granted to regional mayors in the cities are made available to county devolution deals, individual areas could receive up to £21 million in new money per year.

Oliver will tell the conference” “It is likely that the first cohort of deals will be announced soon for a small number of our member councils, which we strongly welcome. But there cannot be any let up in the drive for county devolution. Time is of the essence in getting our economies back on their feet, and we simply cannot afford a protracted wait for further negotiations.

“Which is why we want to see the highest level of ambition and pace from the government on county devolution. After all, surely the whole point of levelling up is that no part of the country should be left behind. CCN will continue to push for more county and unitary areas to get the funding they need, the powers and flexibilities they need and the support that they need from government.

“It is imperative that the next tranche of negotiations begin straight after the first deals are signed, and for devolution to be systematically rolled out to county areas across England. The CCN will lead the charge in making this case.”

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