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18.05.15

New government warned against ‘two-speed’ devolution by England’s heartlands

The County Councils Network (CCN) and District Councils Network (DCN) have issued their first joint statement highlighting concerns that a narrow focus on empowering city areas would threaten to create a two-speed approach to local government and public sector reform. 

The statement warns that the new Conservative government will not secure the economic recovery and services risk failing unless counties and districts have more freedom and devolved funding to respond to their strategic challenges. 

Signed by Cllr David Hodge, CCN chairman, and Cllr Neil Clarke, DCN chairman, the statement said: “We remain concerned that the devolution focus, including the incoming government’s Manifesto, may remain too narrowly focused on City Regions and one-size-fits all approach to English Devolution. 

“It is our strong belief that this will only hinder the government in achieving its core aims of securing economic recovery, reducing the deficit and reforming public services.” 

Despite having, at times, conflicting policy interests, the two organisations want to move forward on the basis of a “joint understanding” of place, people and functional economic areas, and focus the future debate and activity on how authorities across tiers and borders can deliver better outcomes for local communities in the most effective way. 

The CCN’s recent County Devolution document and forthcoming research commissioned by the DCN from INLOGOV will aim to set out a comprehensive framework for achieving devolution to two-tier areas. 

“The documents provide the start of a realistic conversation with the incoming government about devolution in two-tier areas and serve as a framework for county and district partners to develop a compelling joint vision locally,” said Hodge and Clarke. 

Over the coming months, CCN and DCN have committed to activity encouraging and supporting their member councils, alongside the LGA, in designing and delivering devolution proposals and promoting collaboration between their respective member councils.

The statement said: “In return, we expect the government to put forward an agenda on English devolution which recognises that cities, counties and districts have an equal role to play in reforming our constitutional settlement and delivering real devolution.” 

However, both the heads of CCN and DCN added that this does not mean that all areas progress towards a new settlement straight away, nor that devolution will look the same in every area. 

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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