Core Cities: Government must make devolution ‘more than a soundbite’

A sound Industrial Strategy must be built on further devolution of powers at regional and local levels to allow decision-makers to quickly respond to problems in their area, according to Core Cities UK.

In its response to the Industrial Strategy consultation, the organisation, which represents the UK’s 10 core cities, called on the government to move power away from Whitehall as the first step in driving the economies of the country’s largest cities.

Specifically, the response stated that putting in place “freedom and flexibilities” through devolution would empower local people and contribute to creating a networked set of industry and labour market intelligence hubs.

The need to construct a “place-based industrial strategy” was also raised, as the Core Cities urged the government to create its strategy in a way that maximises the potential of the assets of each place for job creation and ensure that people have the correct skills to do those jobs.

Core Cities UK also recognised that the six-new mayoral Combined Authorities would have to play their part in growing Britain’s economy as it said: “All the Core Cities and their city-regions now have strong leadership in place and the development of the Industrial Strategy needs to be taken forward in parallel with the further development of governance and devolved powers in all of them.”

Whilst the organisation’s report welcomed the proposals set out in the government’s Building our Industrial Strategy green paper, it said that a number of important components were missing or given insufficient emphasis, including housing, air quality and the importance of public services.

“With the recent triggering of Article 50 whether we like it or not, the UK will be leaving the European Union in just under two years,” the foreword to the report written by Leader of Birmingham City Council Cllr John Clancy read.

“This means the requirement for a sound Industrial Strategy, with buy-in from both central and local government, has never been greater.

“Post-Brexit it is vital that investment currently coming from the EU to Britain is maintained, that we address the skills shortages holding back the economy and the prospects of local people, and maintain investment in our transport infrastructure and new homes.”

And the key to achieving this goal, according to Cllr Clancy, lies in taking decisions locally where councils and businesses know what is best for their local communities and can react swiftly to issues in their regions.

“Devolution of budgets and powers from Whitehall has to be far more than just a soundbite if this is to be achieved,” he explained. “Furthermore, I welcome the Green Paper’s recognition of the importance of individual councils and combined authorities as key local institutions but again this will require a stronger commitment to devolution to enable us to deliver.”

Core Cities UK’s ambitions for the Industrial Strategy also followed council CEOs also welcoming the opportunity that the plan offered to drive further devolution for local regions. Localis also published its own report about how devolution would be driven at a local level and how devolution would be implemented in practice.

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