Counties retain a strong appetite for devolution deals that genuinely empower county areas and their communities. They stand ready and willing to work with Government on driving down powers to local areas that are based on the scale and geographies of county areas. At the same time, renewed debates in the local government sector over potential structural reform has shone a light on how services could be delivered differently in the future.
The argument for devolution to county areas is compelling: CCN’s recently-commissioned report from Oxford Economics shows that devolution of full public spending to county areas could create 1bn new jobs in the next decade, generate 26bn extra for the national economy, and deliver £11.7bn in savings per year over a five year period. CCN was the lone voice in successfully arguing against the imposition of directly-elected mayors as a requirement in devolution deals. Now, we will continue to develop a new narrative on county devolution, aiming to illustrate the benefits of deals based around county geographies, their scale, and the local leadership in place already. We will argue for a more open, transparent, and structured approach to devolution, with accompanying framework.
CCN will also support its members’ self-determination in pursuing structural reform, if there is local ambition for change. Crucially, any reform must build on the scale and geography of county councils, with clear risks involved in fragmenting those authorities. Separately, counties are the lead bodies for driving public service reform, with county scale necessary for strong collaboration between key public sector partners such as CCGs and LEPs.