National and Devolved Politics

25.07.16

Councils must ‘break free’ from centralised and austere devolution

The government has been accused of holding back the devolution agenda through its austerity policies and lack of truly devolved policies in a new report.

The joint report, from the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) and Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute (SPERI), said that local authorities “must be bolder and break free from the oppressive centralism and a type of devolution deal in which Whitehall holds all the aces”.

It argued that the current devolution process is “stacked in favour of the status quo” and that this has prevented it from supporting areas such as industry, social mobility and renewable energy.

Neil McInroy, chief executive of CLES, said: “It is increasingly clear that present devolution – whilst a unique opportunity – is flawed.

“Whilst the deals have started to reverse some of the problems of over-centralisation, devolution has been too constrained by the Treasury’s economic and social model, and cowed by the ongoing austerity, in which the poorest areas have suffered the most.”

The report argued that the government’s approach to devolution “exacerbates rather than alleviates regional inequalities within the UK” because it continues to prioritise the finance industry and base most of central government in London, seen in the recent decision to close the Department of Business office in Sheffield.

It said that the new approach to devolution should be coupled with a move away from austerity, which is particularly important because devolved areas will “almost certainly” face a loss of funding from the EU following the referendum result.

In addition, the report said that the referendum result “was prompted in part by a sense that people felt abandoned by central government” and shows the need to give people greater control over their communities.

Dr Craig Berry, deputy director of SPERI, said that the formation of the new government under Theresa May is a “valuable opportunity” to introduce “bold new ideas to push the parametres of devolution deals”.

The report recommended devolving a number of key powers to local authorities. These include abolishing the national Work Programme and allowing local authorities to develop their own employment programmes and devolving power over affordable housing policy, including allowing councils to decide whether they want to implement the Right to Buy policy.

It added that local authorities should be given the power to instruct public sector bodies, including the NHS, Network Rail and the Ministry of Defence, to release land for economic development.

It also said that moves towards health and social care devolution should be paused until there is an end to financial pressures on the sector – sharply contrasting with another report from late last week that called for full health devolution of all local areas.

In addition, the report said that tax receipts from environmental taxes, such as the Climate Change Levy and CRC Energy Efficiency Scheme, should be devolved to councils in order to enable them to fund areas such as renewable energy and community energy schemes.

It also recommended introducing localised banking and renationalising the rail network under a local accountability structure.

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here.

Comments

There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

 

related

public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest public sector news

Blackpool bids for £25m Future High Streets Fund

13/07/2020Blackpool bids for £25m Future High Streets Fund

Blackpool Council has bid for up to £25m of the Government’s £1bn Future High Streets Fund, to support the next phase of its To... more >
District council gets green light to build first zero carbon affordable homes

13/07/2020District council gets green light to build first zero carbon affordable homes

 Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) has the green light to build the first zero carbon affordable homes in the district. Plans to ... more >
£705m investment into infrastructure, jobs and tech at GB-EU border

13/07/2020£705m investment into infrastructure, jobs and tech at GB-EU border

The UK Government announced a £705m investment package yesterday (July 12) to fund infrastructure, jobs and technology at the GB-EU border.... more >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this... read more >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been th... more > more last word articles >
Blackpool bids for £25m Future High Streets Fund

13/07/2020Blackpool bids for £25m Future High Streets Fund

Blackpool Council has bid for up to £25m of the Government’s £1bn Future High Streets Fund, to support the next phase of its Town Centre Regeneration Strategy. The town is ... more >
District council gets green light to build first zero carbon affordable homes

13/07/2020District council gets green light to build first zero carbon affordable homes

 Somerset West and Taunton Council (SWT) has the green light to build the first zero carbon affordable homes in the district. Plans to build up to 50 zero carbon homes over across a num... more >

the raven's daily blog

Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

23/06/2020Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

Evolution is crucial in any business and Public Sector Executive is no different. Long before Covid-19 even became a thought in the back of our minds, the team at PSE were looking at innovative ways to deliver its content to our audience in a more dynamic and responsive manner. We’re conscious to take the time to both prot... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

comment

Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Being on the receiving end of some “thanks” can make communit... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues that community-led initiatives are a productive way of helping to solve... more >
Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

19/06/2019Aberdeen's green transport fleet attracting international attention

Aberdeen City Council’s hydrogen spokesperson, councillor Philip Bell, highlights the Granite City’s determination to play a leading ... more >
A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

13/06/2019A fifth of public sector workers have never received a thank you from the people they serve

A fifth of the country’s public sector workers say they have NEVER received a ‘thank you’ for doing their job as Public Service... more >

interviews

Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need to invest in technology to help make better use of their resources. Bu... more >
Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

17/12/2018Digital innovation in the public sector: The future is now

One of the public sector’s key technology partners has recently welcomed a new member to its team. Matt Spencer, O2’s head of public ... more >
New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

05/11/2018New Dorset Councils CEO on the creation of a new unitary: ‘This is going to be the right decision for Dorset’

The new chief executive of one of the new unitary authorities in Dorset has outlined his approach to culture and work with employees, arguing tha... more >
Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

15/10/2018Keeping the momentum of the Northern Powerhouse

On 6 September, the biggest decision-makers of the north joined forces to celebrate and debate how to drive innovation and improvement through th... more >

public sector focus

View all News