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31.07.15

Neighbourhoods, not just cities, need more powers – Lord Kerslake

Pursuing the devolution agenda completely on a model of city-based deals could mean that local empowerment and neighbourhood-level devolution get “missed out”, PSE has been told. 

Lord Kerslake, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and now crossbench peer who is chairing a far-reaching inquiry into decentralisation and devolution, told PSE that the path towards a more devolved Britain will be “immensely challenging”.

He agreed there is value in the current city deal-based model, but said: “There is, perhaps, some risk that if this is all done as city-based deals that the local empowerment and neighbourhood level of devolution gets missed out. 

“We have to find ways of empowering local communities as well as empowering cities.” 

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution’s inquiry panel will consider written evidence in October and oversee oral evidence sessions in the autumn. 

The panel will be cross-party and drawn from both Houses of Parliament, together with external experts. During its work, the panel will consider devolution of legislative and fiscal competence to local authorities within the UK; governance arrangements for decentralisation; and a sustainable funding system for local government. 

“My strong view, as I’m a passionate believer in devolution, is that we have a massively over-centralised state in this country,” said Lord Kerslake, the newly appointed president of the Local Government Association, who in a long career in public service has also been chief executive of Sheffield City Council and head of the Civil Service. “And that we would get better UK government and better local government if we were to devolve powers. 

“What I’m quite interested in, as part of the inquiry, is looking at what might be the coherent effective way of securing further devolution and what is the way that is most likely to secure the kind of outcome we are seeking to achieve.”

The inquiry’s final report and recommendations are to be submitted in March 2016. 

PSE’s full interview with Lord Kerslake, including an in-depth look into the issue of placed-based devolution, will appear in the August/September edition of Public Sector Executive magazine.

(Image: c. Cabinet Office)

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