Prime Minister’s levelling-up speech promises devolution to county areas

CCN Latest News, CCN News 2021 | 15 July 2021

The County Councils Network (CCN) has welcomed today’s levelling-up speech by the Prime Minister, where he made a commitment to ‘rewrite the rulebook’ on devolution and offer county areas the same powers as those currently given to the major cities.

The Prime Minister said that he wanted to create ‘new deals’ for county areas, as there was ‘no reason why our great counties cannot benefit from the same powers as we have devolved to city leaders’. He promised a flexible approach to deals, including the option for a directly elected mayor, but said there was no ‘one size fits all’ template.

Just three county areas presently have a devolution deal – Cornwall, Northumberland, and Cambridgeshire.

The CCN has led calls throughout the summer that county areas cannot be ignored in the levelling-up agenda. The network has warned that if the agenda bypassed rural and county areas, it risks England’s economic recovery from Coronavirus

Cllr Martin Hill, Devolution and Levelling-Up Spokesperson for the County Councils Network, said:

“Counties contain some of the most prosperous places in England, but they are also home to some of the least socially mobile and deprived communities in the country, whilst others play host to isolated and rural coastal communities or former manufacturing towns.

“That’s why the County Councils Network has led calls for levelling up and devolution to reach all four corners of England, and we strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s speech today. His commitment to devolution to counties recognises the importance of our places, and the need to empower local leaders to successfully deliver the levelling up agenda.   

“Local areas should be able to decide the most appropriate devolution arrangements for counties, and ministers must deliver a flexible approach through the forthcoming Levelling-Up White Paper. Levelling-up the left-behind areas in counties can only be achieved if county councils and unitary authorities, working with their partners, are given the same devolved powers as urban areas and are put in the driving seat of delivering change and we are pleased that this looks firmly on the table.”