This post was first published by the Local Government Information Unit
With devolution now big news, and government indicating that it is prepared to bring significant powers and budgets to the table, there has been considerable interest in the Treasury’s latest invitation to places to propose ‘devolution deals’.
City-region areas, counties and other combinations of authorities covering the majority of England’s population and economic output – as well as some Scottish and Welsh city-regions – have taken the opportunity to approach government, with many investing more time and political capital in both the content and the proposed governance of their ideas than they may have done previously.
Though the figure disguises some local political manoeuvrings, 38 places and groups put forward formal submissions for the latest deadline of 4thSeptember. Framed, inevitably, by the precedent of Greater Manchester’s achievements, and to a lesser extent those of other large cities and most recently Cornwall in securing ambitious deals, the submissions reveal a number of common threads:
- Fiscal devolution focused around business rates
- Transport investment, bus and train franchising and integrated ticketing
- Skills funding, incentives and regulation
- Devolution of business support budgets
- Specific sector-based investment
- Devolution of employment support commissioning
- Housing delivery and public land
- Greater control over European funding
- Initial steps towards integration of health and social care
Partly reflecting a strong Ministerial lead from Greg Clark, proposals have sought to go further than the one-off investments which characterised previous rounds of deal activity, with places increasingly demanding the fundamental realignment of nationally held budgets and, to an extent, fiscal freedoms. This partly reflects the budgetary circumstances: most forward-thinking authorities and partnerships will view the quest for new powers, the effort to weather the financial storm ahead and the need to join up public services as three sides of a triangle.