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Clark tells LGA conference to be ambitious in devolution

Communities Secretary Greg Clark MP told councils they are on the brink of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take power from government.

Speaking at the Local Government Association annual conference in Harrogate, Clark called on all cities, towns and counties to be ambitious in their proposals to take power and resources away from Whitehall.

He said: “I want every place in the country to consider how they can assert their strengths and make their mark.

“We must be a nation of muscular communities – north and south, town and country.”

The communities secretary added that in the past local government has been too fragmented, and this has held back the decentralisation of power.

For devolution discussions to happen this needs to be overcome, whether it be through combined authorities, unitaries or mergers.

Clark also reemphasised the importance of LEPs to devolution deals.

“In a few short years the LEPs have guaranteed a strong voice for business in local leadership,” he said.

“At their best, business leaders have made an amazing contribution to their local areas – bringing employer knowledge of skill requirements, development opportunities and entrepreneurship to complement the civic leadership of local councils.

“I would not expect to approve any deal that did not have a clear role for the LEP.”

The government’s Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill currently making its way through Parliament is wide in scope, and Clark encouraged town halls to be ambitious in their proposals.

“Those who are prepared to organise to be more effective and more efficient should be able to reap the rewards of that boldness, whether in costs saved or additional revenues generated.

“I have no doubt about the ability of the people in this hall. Take power now. Don’t let yourself, any longer, be ruled by someone else.”

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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 feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >