Since 2010 the Government has devolved powers, funding and responsibility to local areas through a variety of means. The last six years have seen the creation of 39 Local Enterprise Partnerships and the agreement of 28 City Deals, 39 Growth Deals and ten devolution deals. This has resulted in rapid change in the local government landscape and the roles and remits of many of the bodies involved. There is wide support for the principle of devolving powers from the centre to local areas, which are often best placed to identify and respond to the needs of local people. However, we are concerned that not all devolution deals are coherent: they lack clear objectives; and are not aligned geographically with other policies or local bodies. There has been insufficient consideration by central government of local scrutiny arrangements, of accountability to the taxpayer and of the capacity and capability needs of local and central government as a result of devolution. We are clear that while devolution is driven by political decisions, this does not absolve central government departments of exercising sufficient and effective oversight of implementation. This is an untested policy and there are clear tensions emerging, with evidence of some devolution deals already beginning to unravel. As the devolution agenda progresses, in order to maximise the prospects for success, we will want to see greater clarity from government about what they are hoping to achieve and stronger consideration of the issues we highlight in this report.
27 June 2016