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21.05.15

LGA calls for devolution without mayors

The Local Government Association has responded to the government’s Cities Devolution Bill with its own white paper calling for councils to be given two years to form groups or combined authorities and the end to the imposition of elected mayors.

The LGA is willing to work with the new government but said that continuing to make cuts without reform would stifle growth and make local services unsustainable.

English devolution: local solutions for a successful nation builds upon the evidence of three independent commissions that all conclude devolution must reach non-metropolitan England, which is responsible for 56% of national output.

The paper acknowledges the Cities Devolution Bill, expected in next week's Queen's Speech, but argues that devolving only limited powers to metropolitan regions does not go far enough.

The LGA argue that if radical reform is pursued instead, up to £20.6bn in potential public sector savings could be identified, as well as more than £80bn in economic growth, 700,000 new jobs and many other benefits from devolution, including:

  • Supporting the elderly to live independently and addressing a £1.9bn adult social care funding-gap that is rising by £400m a year with the ageing population.
  • Building 500,000 more homes by incentivising and reforming house building programmes and catering for some of the 1.7 million households currently waiting for an affordable home.
  • Providing every child with a place at a good local-school, halving the number of jobless young people and investing in training and education to close the gap on a skills shortfall set to cost up to 25 per cent of growth, by 2022.
  • Increasing employment by replacing the £620m Work Programme with two devolved schemes dealing with the long-term unemployed and the 2.5 million disadvantaged claimants separately.

Cllr David Sparks, chair of the LGA, said: "Local councils recognise the need for change and are proposing a new partnership with government to strengthen our country from the ground up and establish an equitable settlement for England.

"The evidence is overwhelming and devolution within England is the most effective way to create jobs, build homes, strengthen healthy communities and protect the vulnerable in all parts of the country.

"Now is the time for bold solutions to help revive local democracy, strengthen our nation and deliver better and more efficient services over the course of this next parliament and for the parliaments to come.”

As a first step, the LGA wants the upcoming Spending Review to put long-term settlements in place for public services to give local authorities greater fiscal freedom. This should include the removal of the requirement to hold a referendum to raise council tax more than 2% and full local retention of business rates.

Cllr Sparks continued: "Local government's offer to the new government is simple, give local communities the freedom and powers to play their full role in economic and social prosperity.

"This would improve the outcomes for local people, families and communities, maximise the value for money of public spending and strengthen democratic accountability for public services.

"We are certain that by working together, we can provide the foundations on which the country's success can be built."

The April/May 2015 edition of PSE is now available for FREE using the new PSE App, available on iOS and Android. Search ‘Public Sector’ in the App Store / Google Play.

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