This inquiry, led by the Devolution APPG, sought to understand how the successful role of local government in the COVID-19 emergency, which demonstrated how councils deliver for the diverse needs of their communities, could help us think again about the devolution agenda.
English devolution is key to delivering on the government’s ambitions to ‘level up’ the country. Devolution is already delivering results and improving outcomes. But, unless local leaders have more control over policy and local budgets, their potential will continue to be held back. The UK’s prosperity depends on local factors including housing, skills provision, the ability to fund services, land use and transport connections as well as the availability of public goods and services. Devolving and decentralising power and enabling local people to make decisions in these areas will create the conditions for sustainable growth, better public services and a stronger society.
The English devolution agenda has most recently focused on the creation of combined authorities, formed by two or more local authorities, in many cases led by a directly elected metro mayor. Various powers and budgets have been transferred to combined authorities from Whitehall, based on ‘devolution deals’ negotiated between local leaders and central government. The first combined authority, in Greater Manchester, was established in 2011, and nine more have since been created, covering 10 areas of England. Eight of these are led by metro mayors and have concluded devolution deals with the centre.
This inquiry, led by the Devolution APPG, sought to understand how the successful role of local government in the COVID-19 emergency, which demonstrated how councils deliver for the diverse needs of their communities, could help us think again about the devolution agenda. It therefore considers how central and local government can work together more effectively, and how reforms of the way Whitehall works could strengthen the principle of devolution and improve outcomes for local communities and businesses.