CCN News 2015 | 13 July 2015
The County Councils Network (CCN) have consistently highlighted the need to increase productivity and living standards and have put forward proposals for achieving this through Our Plan for Government and our County Devolution report. We are therefore delighted to see a focus on these issues set out in central government’s Productivity Plan announced last week. County areas share this important goal and are ready to take the next steps to achieving this, through strong governance, devolved functions and fiscal freedoms.
Local areas have a key role to play in establishing a post-16 skills system that is responsive to local needs and priorities. We welcome central government’s endorsement of this and ask that all areas across the country are enabled to take on such a role. CCN have calculated that 10 people are training for every one job in hair and beauty industries in county areas, and that over one third of vital construction and engineering jobs have no one training to fill them. Devolving powers to counties areas could allow them to play a core role in meeting goals shared with central government, increasing GVA by approximately £8.2bn and supporting around 700,000 people in to work.
Improving house building, planning and infrastructure is a priority for county areas. Strategic planning powers extended to Greater Manchester and London are equally vital to county residents. These powers would enable local government partners to come together to take a more strategic view of planning and infrastructure across their area, and take the decisions needed to provide the type and volume of homes that their communities need. The CCN and District Councils Network (DCN) are working closely together to show how strategic planning could work across their areas and the benefits which could be seen by residents, business and government.
The commitments made in the Productivity Plan to invest in infrastructure, roads and transport and to widespread transport devolution, are strongly welcomed by CCN. Infrastructure and transport are of particular importance to county areas, as they have large geographies and areas of dispersed and rural populations. Powers to deliver fully integrated public transport systems across county areas become ever more vital as pressures on local government increase. Such powers would mean that business, employment and training connectivity could be maximised, people’s access to services could be improved and isolation could be guarded against.
Counties are the highest performing economies outside of London, and are the largest contributors to HM Treasury. With the right freedoms and functions these areas have the capacity to play a key role in supporting central government to meet their goals and to underpin the productivity, living standards and competitiveness of the country.