Twenty years of Devolution - House of Commons, 11 July 2019

The UK system of devolution is unequal. Councils across England need to be given control over public services and investments.

Key messages

  • The UK system of devolution is unequal and different parts of the UK have different degrees of devolution. In Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, national assembly’s possess executive and legislative powers. In England, local government in some largely metropolitan areas have been granted certain executive and scrutiny portfolios, but nothing on the scale of the devolved nations. 
  • 20 years on from the original devolution settlements, it is time to go further. Powers must be devolved beyond Whitehall, Cardiff Bay, Stormont and Holyrood to rest with local communities through local government. Bringing power and resources closer to people is the key to delivering better outcomes for communities and inclusive growth across the country.
  • In recent years the pace of devolution has slowed. Progress has been made in large metropolitan areas, but communities in the rest of the country have been largely left behind. The LGA launched a Commission into the future of non-metropolitan England. This has identified areas where further progress is needed for these communities.
  • With Whitehall set to be focused on responding to the demands of the EU Exit for the foreseeable future, there will not be the capacity at a national level to negotiate individual deals. A new localism settlement needs to move beyond individual deals to a package of sustainably-funded, locally-led public service reform that is available to all of English local government
  • In this context local leaders should be given the responsibility and funding to address long-standing challenges and maximise opportunities.  Local government must have a greater say on policies like the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, State Aid, procurement processes and trading standards.
  • The LGA has published several recent policy documents that outline how further devolution can benefit local communities including Councils Can and Work Local. Councils Can sets out how a new localism settlement could strengthen communities and local government. This needs to be underpinned in a Queen’s Speech by an English Devolution Bill, a Local Government Finance Bill and a sustainable funding settlement in the Spending Review.
  • It is vital that local government retains the benefits of its current  formal advisory role in the EU law and policy-making process through its membership of the EU Committee of the Regions (CoR). The LGA, together with the local government associations in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, have been in discussion with the UK Government about how this advisory role might be replicated in the UK policy making context. Our shared ambition is to replicate the advisory role post-exit, without creating new bureaucracies.

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Twenty years of Devolution - House of Commons, 11 July 2019