Government white paper on devolution: CCN responds

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2019 | 30 September 2019

Today the Chancellor Sajid Javid has announced that the government is to publish a devolution white paper.

He told the Conservative Party Conference today: “So I can announce today we will bring forward a white paper on further devolution in England. Giving more local areas more local powers… to drive investments in the infrastructure and services they know they need.”

The County Councils Network has long argued for the government to be open to ambitious county devolution deals that do not require the mayoral model of governance, and for a ‘framework’ for powers to be published.

Below, the network’s devolution spokesman Cllr Martin Hill responds.

Cllr Martin Hill, devolution spokesman for the County Councils Network, said:

“Since the new government took office, the County Councils Network has welcomed their renewed commitment to devolution and today’s announcement of a white paper on English devolution could provide the platform for local government to help deliver on some of the nation’s biggest domestic issues, not least in housing, care, and economic growth.

“To ensure devolution really gets off the ground in counties and rural areas, we need the white paper to recognise the importance of our areas and directly empower and trust county authorities to deliver this agenda, moving away from a city-centric approach.  The major sticking point for many counties under the previous government was the requirement for a metro mayor in return for a full suite of devolved powers. Whilst this model can work in some areas, there is little evidence it is suitable for large and diverse county areas.

 “The white paper should not restrict the most ambitious devolution to metro-mayors and should be clear on the importance of county geographies as the building blocks for devolution outside of the major cities.

 “Counties, as strategic authorities in their areas, want to work with the new government on a fresh devolution drive and we have much to offer if the government recognises the key role county councils can play; we have the ambition and appetite for post-16 education and skills powers to address productivity gaps, alongside new infrastructure and transport functions and funding, and we are best placed to lead on the care in the community agenda.”

Read a 2017 report on county devolution, produced by ResPublica, here, and a report by Oxford Economics, produced two years ago for the network, here.