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CCN: Councils should be given greater powers to deal with local labour shortages

Devolution of powers to county councils could help deal with future labour and skills shortages, says the County Councils Network (CCN).

A report from think tank Localis, supported by the CCN, suggests that nine out of 10 locations most at risk of a worker crisis are rural county areas.

The study puts future problems down to a shrinking skills base, automation, an ageing population and Brexit, caused by a consistent failure to deal with the complexity of problems presented to the government.

Localis proposed the creation of 47 strategic authorities across England to develop ‘place-based’ local industrial strategies, including local labour market strategies.

In county areas, the think tank suggested that the strategic authority is led by the county authority, and built around existing county boundaries.

Cllr Paul Carter, chairman of the CCN said that the government must focus more on the specific advantages local county councils can provide.

He added: “County authorities have the ambition, size, and expertise to engineer real change in their local skills market, but are shackled by a lack of powers. Let’s embrace the art of the possible – this new approach would be good for business and good for residents.

“This report by Localis sets out a deliverable framework to develop local labour market strategies. By devolving significant skills budgets and adult education powers, we can begin to create make a difference locally and a more prosperous country nationally.”

The research also reveals a gulf in the strength of England’s local labour markets, with the bulk of investment being channelled into London and the area between it, Oxford and Cambridge.

In addition, there are major fears that British people do not have the ability to work in the industries which are being developed. This would be further concentrated by skilled EU workers leaving the country after Brexit.

Co-author of the report and chief executive of Localis, Liam Booth-Smith, commented: “As the country slowly gets to grips with the broader implications, both positive and negative, of Brexit, it strikes us that the biggest threat to our future prosperity won’t come from Brussels, but from our own people.

“Simply put, our population is too low-skilled for the high-paying industries we are developing.”

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