This piece was first published by the Local Government Information Unit
Since its experimental beginnings around 2011, the process of decentralising power to English cities and regions through a succession of ‘deals’ has had pragmatism at its root. Five years on, the practical progress of local areas in forging partnerships, developing plans and delivering projects has been mirrored at the centre, including by George Osborne’s personal championing of devolution as “The thing I am fighting for most as Chancellor”. Further underlining the agenda’s journey to the heart of mainstream government policy, this year’s Budget brings the total number of live ‘Devolution Deal’ areas to 10, covering up to 30 per cent of the country’s population.
This evolution of deals – City, Growth and now Devolution – from a fringe pursuit to ‘the new normal’ has increasingly seen a battle developing between idealists and cynics – indeed, sometimes one and the same people. Yet behind the scenes it is still the pragmatists who are pressing on with making deals work – and there’s a lot of work to get on with.
Having secured headline deal agreements, there are three main practical tasks for places to work through.