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11.09.15

High volume of devolution bids could ‘squeeze out’ some councils – LGA

The high volume of devolution bids submitted to Whitehall means that proposals still at an early development stage could be “squeezed out” by those that are closer to implementation or more in line with government priorities, the LGA has warned.

In its agenda report ahead of an executive meeting on 17 September, the LGA advised that some bids could end up prioritised over others as a result of the “significant resource” needed from departments to ensure places are “adequately supported throughout the negotiation process”.

It said: “Councils have previously expressed concern about departments’ ability to commit the substantial time needed to properly support their negotiations. This could lead to a de facto prioritisation, with proposals at an earlier stage of development being squeezed out by those judged to be closer to implementation or those seen to be more aligned to government’s priorities.

 “On our devolution hub, we have already identified a number of significant agreements between councils and government, and these could help form a baseline for discussions that avoid re-treading ground that has been covered elsewhere.

“The relatively tight timeline between now and any announcements being made in the Spending Review on 25 November makes this particularly critical and will remain a high priority for the LGA.”

The executive board will reiterate its intention to monitor feedback from councils to free up resources where necessary.

The agenda added that the existing deals and the scale of those submitted on 4 September suggest “wider constitutional implications” for the balance of power in the UK.

Because of this the LGA will consider what steps it can take towards promoting a wider debate on devolution and the UK constitution. Some of these constitutional issues will be discussed in meetings next month.

Despite concerns the LGA supports devolution bids and sees proposals as a “milestone” in the bottom-up approach.

“Ambitious deals have been submitted by councils and their partners, including significant areas of commonality on the localisation of skills and employment support, transport, and housing and planning.

“Importantly, the bids reflect the different stages at which places find themselves, and Whitehall must recognise this and not adopt a one-size-fits-all approach to negotiations,” the report added.

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