Latest Public Sector News

04.09.15

Council leaders pitch for at least £60bn in devolved funding

Council leaders have urged the government to devolve at least £60bn worth of funding to local areas over the next five years. 

The call comes as cities and county areas across the country are set to meet today's (4 September) preliminary devolution deadline and submit deals to the chancellor. 

One deal that was being submitted today was from the West Yorkshire Combined Authority. Earlier this week, local authority leaders in the Leeds City region confirmed that after talks with Treasury minister Lord O’Neill a deal would be submitted. 

The leaders also acknowledged that in exchange for the devolution of radical powers, which they hope will deliver better infrastructure, jobs and housing, the government has made clear it will insist on the introduction of an elected metro-mayor. 

They say that although people in Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield voted against mayors in in 2012, the potential benefits are now so substantial they have a duty to residents to give it serious consideration. 

“However, they are making clear that they will not stand for the government using devolution to impose a mayor while keeping the real power in Whitehall or simply devolve the task and responsibility for implementing austerity measures,” said Cllr Peter Box, leader of Wakefield Council. 

Local areas are calling for greater local powers and funding for skills, housing, transport and health and social care. Deals already submitted and offers being finalised include: 

  • Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire – includes call for 10-year transport settlement and fully devolved housing investment.
  • Gloucestershire – includes control of all health care budgets, fully integrated health and social care and a single vision for health and wellbeing for the county.
  • Liverpool city region – retention of 100% of business rates income and the ability to franchise all local bus services.
  • Leicester and Leicestershire – devolution of funding and ability to commission skills programmes locally.
  • Hampshire, South Hampshire, Isle of Wight – calling for further investment in world-class marine and aerospace clusters and university research centres. 

Cllr Gary Porter, LGA Chairman, said: “Local people know best how to spend money and run services in their local area. Taking decisions closer to where people live is key to rebalancing the economy and improving the services which bind our communities together and protect our most vulnerable. 

“Councils and their partners have worked hard to get devolution deals in and produce innovative proposals to use public spending more effectively to meet local needs. Ministers have invited councils to continue coming forward with ambitious and innovative proposals and we hope they will maintain recent momentum over the course of the Parliament.” 

He added that in the negotiations that follow today, the LGA urge the government to match the ambitions shown by cities and county areas and ensure the benefits of devolution are extended to residents and businesses in all parts of the country. 

“Devolution is not an end in itself,” said Cllr Porter, who was recently made a peer. “If our public services are to survive the next five years, councils also need fairer funding alongside the freedom to pay for them.” 

A Treasury spokesman added that this “one nation government” is determined to devolve powers and funding so that no corner of the country is left behind.

“We welcome the fact that civic leaders from all over the country are enthusiastic about devolution,” he said. 

The devolution deal deadline also comes on the same day that proposals from cabinet ministers about how they plan to cut their departmental budgets by 25% or 40% are due. 

The LGA suggested recently that if government departments are made to find up to a further 40% of savings by 2020, local councils could be faced with a £7bn decrease to the local government finance settlement.

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