The government has reiterated plans for a devolution white paper, which will ‘unleash’ regional potential, as part of today’s Queen’s Speech.
Although the speech focussed heavily on issues like Brexit, it did confirm that a white paper, which was first promised during the Conservative Party conference was forthcoming.
According to the government’s briefing notes on the Queen’s Speech, the white paper will set out a strategy for ‘continued local economic growth’ and ‘increased productivity’ across the country.
The document adds the paper will provide further information on the government’s ‘offer’ for enhanced devolution across England, levelling up the powers between mayoral combined authorities and increasing the number of mayors and doing more devolution deals.
There were no more details of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which will replace EU regeneration grants after Brexit, although the Queen’s Speech briefing notes state it will cover the whole of the UK.
‘All of the largest non-capital cities in the UK, with the exception of Bristol, are less productive than would be expected for their size and huge potential. They are also less productive compared to almost all similarly-sized European cities,’ the document states.
‘Evidence suggests areas with more integrated leadership, across a functional economic area, support higher rates of economic growth and higher rates of productivity when compared with areas with more fragmented governance.’
Commenting on the Queen’s Speech, the chairman of the Local Government Association, Cllr James Jamieson said it was ‘encouraging’ that it ‘signalled a renewed energy’ in favour of devolution.
‘With no new devolution deals agreed in two years, councils will look to work with the Government on how to reignite this process,’ said Cllr Jamieson.
‘As a first step, any new approach needs to move beyond bespoke deals with individual areas to a package of sustainably-funded devolved powers that is available to all of English local government and can be delivered through flexible governance arrangements.
‘These powers need to be underpinned by statute so they, along with those already devolved through existing deals, cannot be rolled back by a simple change in government’s policy,’ he added.
The chairman of the County Councils Network, Cllr David Williams, said: ‘County leaders retain a strong appetite for devolution and will work with ministers to roll out this agenda to rural England.
‘It is imperative that the white paper and any sequent legislation provides a clear framework to inform local discussions, but crucially does not restrict the most ambitious deals being limited to urban metro-mayors. County authorities must be the building blocks of future devolution deals and any supporting structural and institutional reform.’
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Senior reporter – NewStart