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Boris election victory holds ‘great promise for bold devolution’

Local government figures have claimed Boris Johnson’s victory at the ballot box holds ‘great promise for bold devolution and economic rebalancing’ over the next few years.

With 649 of the 650 parliamentary seats declared this morning (13 December), the Conservatives now have 364 seats in the House of Commons, which gives them a majority of at least 76.

The Conservative 2019 general election manifesto reiterated a previous commitment to publish an English Devolution White Paper next year.

The document added that the Conservatives are committed to ‘devolving power to people and places across the UK’.

And repeated a commitment first published in the Conservative’s 2017 general election manifesto to create a UK Shared Prosperity Fund to replace EU funding after Brexit.

The chief executive of the think tank Localis, Jonathan Werran said ‘we have witnessed an unprecedented and epochal national political realignment’, which he added ‘holds great promise for bold devolution and economic rebalancing over the next parliament’.

‘Devolution and local industrial strategy offer a route map to make good on campaign promises of ‘levelling up’ to these new-found blue-collar Conservative voters in left behind areas and to closing the gap between the most and least prosperous parts of the country,’ said Mr Werran.

‘The trick will be to ensure productivity gains from a recharged and rebalanced UK economy find their way into the wage packets and lived experience of residents.  Not an easy ask in the teeth of our post-war economic history, but a challenge that the post-Brexit economy will have to meet head on.’

The chairman of the County Councils Network (CCN) and leader of Hertfordshire County Council, Cllr David Williams, said: ‘Boris Johnson’s majority government has been elected on a domestic pledge to ‘level-up’ the ‘left-behind’ parts of the country.

‘While counties are great places to live and work, we must not forget that many of those areas are located within counties, from deprived rural and coastal communities, to former manufacturing hotbeds, to places where young people leave to go to university and never return. The left-behind nature of many of these places are partly a product of resource and policy being overly London centric and city focused.

‘Therefore, to truly unleash the potential of the entire country, government must ensure that counties are fairly funded by ensuring that the Fair Funding Review proceeds and is implemented in 2021, whilst setting out an ambitious devolution offer to the shires so CCN member councils have access to the same powers and levers afforded to urban metro mayors.

‘The promised devolution white paper must set out this level of flexibility, while it must embrace the key role county authorities play in enabling regional growth,’ added Cllr Williams.

And the chief executive of the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU), Jonathan Carr-West said: ‘Councils are currently left in limbo with no clear indication as to how they will be funded from the end of next year and no certainty as to when a financial settlement for the year ahead will be confirmed.

‘The new UK government needs to address the unfinished business of localism for a new decade. Sustainable reform of local government finances should be at the top of their agenda.’

The president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executive’s (SOLACE), Martin Swales has written to Mr Johnson today (13 December) called on him to urgently consult on the UK Shared Prosperity Fund and publish the Devolution White Paper.

‘As you have acknowledged, these are difficult times for the UK. However, there is no limit of ambition, passion and experience amongst local government elected members and officers to improve the places we serve,’ writes Mr Swales in his letter.

‘The sooner you can provide councils with a certain financial platform, the sooner we can get on with the task at hand.’

Photo Credit – 629389 (Pixabay)

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