8. True devolution:
After decades of centralisation, devolution deals offer local and combined authorities a chance to break free and forge their own distinctive economic and social destinies. But current devolution deals are constrained by the Treasury’s economic and social model, and cowed by ongoing austerity. The economic powers being devolved will not allow local authorities to transform their local economies dramatically. Rather, the devolution process has been stacked in favour of Whitehall and limited in terms of what it deems important. The City Deals and local growth deals which have been signed off so far do not significantly disrupt the mainstream economic model, focused as they are primarily on infrastructure funding and high-growth industries. For devolution to herald a more progressive future for local places, it needs to re-draw the role of the local state, lay the groundwork for a new industrial future and enable the transition to low-carbon economies. It should allow new powers to develop local solutions to housing, devolve powers over land and property, enable the integration of health and social care and develop a bottom-up climate change strategy. Decisions for local employment strategies, local housing and transport need to be made at the lowest scale level possible in order for them to be appropriate to and focused on needs.
Who’s doing it:
Manchester’s people’s plan
What it needs:
Places need to continue to negotiate with central government around city, devolution and growth details. However, the frame of this needs to shift away from a focus upon largely using infrastructure investment to facilitate economic growth, as seen in the City Deals, to one where this is balanced with true social outcomes. To enable this there needs to also be a reshaped centre with that safeguards and redistributive responsibilities. There needs to be a new settlement between central and local government which safeguards the role of local government and a clear transfer of authority from Whitehall. There needs to be true social devolution, including place-based budgets for public services.
Clare Goff is former Editor of New Start magazine