Progress on devolution in England Contents
The last five years have seen a considerable extension of devolution in England. From a situation where there was only devolution to London, a series of devolution deals have spread devolution from the Isles of Scilly to the Tweed. But devolution is not everywhere; instead it is predominantly concentrated in urban areas.
- We believe that in the remainder of this Parliament there should be further progress on devolution. Devolution must extend not only to combined authorities but to local government as a whole, and to rural as well as urban areas.
For devolution to be expanded, and to succeed, it needs support by central government.
- The Government should work with local government and other stakeholders to produce a devolution framework. The framework should include a set of principles committing the Government to devolution as an evolving process with a forward direction.
- Devolution should be the default option unless there is a good and compelling reason why a policy area should not be devolved, and the Government should consider following the model for the devolved nations, where there is a list of reserved powers and all other powers are available for devolution.
- Councils should also devolve to their local communities—devolution does not stop at the town hall door.
Devolution must be undertaken with the involvement of the people in the area where devolution is taking place. A weakness of past devolution in England has been the limited consultation with the public, especially prior to negotiations taking place. That needs to be put right. The local public should also be consulted on whether devolution should include having a directly elected mayor.
Financial devolution is necessary to ensure the success of devolution.
- The Government should explore alternative ways in which revenue can be raised by local councils, to reduce reliance on council tax and business rates. The Government should also commission research into how income tax or other national tax revenue could be allocated to local and combined authorities, or how a local income tax across a combined authority area could work.
In respect of funding, the principle of devolution funding should be that grants are given on a block basis to cover all services for which local and combined authorities have oversight, without ringfencing or competitive bidding. The Government should also bring forward as soon as possible its proposals for how the UK Shared Prosperity Fund will work.
We believe there should be further devolution to local government across a range of policy areas.
- The proposals of the cross-party Health Devolution Commission should be the basis for health devolution. Greater powers in respect of housing and planning and education should also be available for devolution. The Government should examine the case for further devolution in respect of other policy areas, such as energy efficiency and the environment. It should also consider extending powers for Transport for London-style oversight of local buses to all transport authorities.