Councils warn ‘devolution deadlock’ puts economy at risk

Town hall leaders have warned a deadlock in the devolution process is putting economic growth across England at risk.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has hit out at the government today, claiming the devolution process has ‘stalled’ with no new deals announced in the last 18 months, despite many areas wanting to press ahead with negotiations.

The LGA has also called on the government to publish its annual devolution report, which sets out the progress made on negotiating all the deals, when parliament returns this week.

The cities and local government devolution act includes a duty on the communities secretary to provide annual reports to parliament on the progress being made as soon as possible after 31 March.

This year’s report has yet to be published.

The chairman of the LGA’s people and places board, Mark Hawthorne, said there are concerns ‘that devolution discussions have stalled and opportunities are being missed’.

‘To reignite the devolution process, the government needs to engage in a debate about appropriate governance arrangements with local areas,’ he added.

‘This is fundamental to ensure that the momentum around devolving powers to local areas is not lost and the billions of pounds worth of economic growth, hundreds of thousands of jobs and homes on offer through non-metropolitan devolution deals is not lost with it.’

The chief executive of think tank Localis, Liam Booth-Smith said ‘given the economic urgency of Brexit’, all parts of England ‘deserve new powers to revive moribund local economies and with it the opportunity to help themselves’.

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: ‘This government is 100% committed to devolving powers to local areas where there is strong local support for plans to deliver better local services, greater value for money and clear accountability.’

Today also sees the government’s first meeting between chancellor Philip Hammond and the three metro mayors from the north of England – Andy Burnham (Greater Manchester), Steve Rotherham (Liverpool city region) and Ben Houchen (Tees Valley).

The three mayors are due to discuss how to boost economic growth across the region.

Speaking before the meeting, Mr Hammond said: ‘Boosting productivity in the north is at the very heart of the government’s ambition to build an economy that works for everyone.

‘As we prepare to leave the European Union it is even more important that we support the Northern Powerhouse to reach its full potential.’

Last month, various civic leaders in the north, including Mr Burnham, joined forces to call for more devolution to the region.

‘It is time now for the north to pool its political influence and show a real willingness to use it, like London, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been doing in recent times,’ said the Greater Manchester mayor.

Last month, New Start also reported on calls by the manufacturer’s organisation EEF for a new approach to devolution.

The EEF said local enterprise partnerships should be given the responsibility of bringing councils and businesses together to decide what kind of devolution deal is best ‘for their area’.


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