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Combined authorities: Financial freedoms and fiscal devolution

This report assesses how freely English combined authorities are able to raise and spend funding.

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This report assesses how freely English combined authorities are able to raise and spend funding. These ‘financial freedoms’ were researched in late 2021/early 2022, updating research conducted at the beginning of 2018 (the report describing the research is available on the Local Government Association’s website).

The findings reflect the views and understanding of the authors, in what is a complex and always evolving subject. It is based on two strands of work:

1. An in-depth review of the existing literature. Including, but not limited to, grey literature surrounding fiscal devolution and recent government policy in this area, the minutes of combined authority meetings and published combined authority accounts.

2. Semi-structured interviews. With combined authority finance directors, civil servants and experts on fiscal devolution. These followed an initial presentation and discussion at the Combined Authority Finance Network convened by the Local Government Association (LGA). To allow participants to speak freely, these meetings were conducted on a confidential basis. Where specific references to individual combined authorities are made, these are based on publicly available information and the author’s own inferences based on this information.

With this in mind, we believe that this report provides a comprehensive overview of the state of play in late 2021/early 2022.

It is also important to note that this document is not intended to provide a detailed legal basis for decision-making in combined authorities. It is for informative purposes only.

The project was commissioned from WPI Economics by the LGA on behalf of the Combined Authority Finance Network, a network established and facilitated through the LGA’s sector-support programme, funded by HM Government.

Please be aware the version below has been made accessible to all audiences.