The Devolution Agenda

The case for devolution

Although governments of all political parties have stated the benefits of devolution and localism, the process of reducing centralisation in what is often described as one of the most centralised states in Europe has been slow.

Effective and empowered civic leadership is widely seen as key to both regeneration and sustainability in cities of all sizes across Europe and the United States. Unlike cities elsewhere in the world only England’s capital consistently outperforms the national economy.

As such, Key Cities believe that, freed from central Government control, with greater powers to raise and spend money locally, and design services specifically for their areas, cities can rebalance the economy and reduce demand on public services.

Earned Autonomy to Mainstreamed Autonomy

Since the 1990’s the history of devolution to local government in England has been one of ‘earned autonomy’ - freedoms and flexibilities granted to individual councils, often on a time limited basis linked to the achievement of targets, identified through negotiation with central government departments.

The ‘earned autonomy’ process has led to a repeated series of complex and resource intensive negotiations between individual local councils and government departments. Granting individual and fixed term freedoms to individual areas has also made the process of evaluation of the effectiveness of incentives difficult. A standardised set of freedoms and flexibilities, without the need for individual negotiations, would be significantly less resource intensive for both central and local government.

Developing proposals for greater devolution

We would welcome working with the Treasury and other government departments to identify projects (e.g.local rate variation, localisation of welfare and skills programmes) that would speedily test out new approaches and deliver significant savings and outcomes for government and taxpayers and significantly stimulate economic growth and job creation.

City Deals and Community Budget Agreements: making sure every key city benefits

Detailed analysis will be undertaken of existing and developing Community Budget Pilots and City Deals (in particular second Wave City Deals) to identify common themes and freedoms for the development and submission of a broader, nontime limited, business case to government incorporating these freedoms into a ‘devolution package’ of options for local areas.

Elected Mayoral powers

Key Cities will examine how elected mayoral powers from the Localism Act may be applied to all Key Cities, regardless of governance model, in order to significantly strengthen the position of civic leaders to work with the private sector to create jobs and growth, as well as deliver the infrastructure to underpin that growth.

Duty to co-operate

The Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 established a Duty to Co-operate on named government departments and agencies in the delivery of Local Area Agreements. Key Cities will seek to revisit this as a broader duty to cooperate with councils on economic development or other issues.