Latest Public Sector News


PAC: Devolution not a ‘miracle cure’ for central government

The government must make clear what it is trying to achieve through devolution to taxpayers and service users, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has said in a new report.

The PAC’s new report, ‘Devolution in England: governance, financial accountability and following the taxpayer pound’, has highlighted the continued failure of central government to define its objectives for devolution in England.

The report also raises concerns about transparency and accountability in devolution spending, bringing attention to the ‘opaque’ nature of LEPs, which are now negotiating local growth deals backed by a £12bn growth fund, and warning against a new ‘local centralism’.

Meg Hillier MP, chair of the PAC, said: “Devolution in England has significant implications for the lives of millions of people, yet even at this late stage, and despite concerns raised by us and others in Parliament, the government still has serious questions to answer.

“Generalisations about the potential benefits of devolution just don’t cut it with taxpayers worried about real-world issues.”

The report stresses that taxpayers must be able to understand who is spending their money, to what end and where responsibility lies if things go wrong, suggesting that documents regarding devolution spending should be made publicly available by central and local government.

The DCLG must also be able to more clearly demonstrate the link between devolution and economic growth, with the government currently placing more emphasis on devolution itself rather than other relevant factors like housing, education and skills, the report said.

Perhaps most strikingly, the report stresses that the devolution of services does not absolve central government of its responsibility to ensure that devolved areas receive adequate funding to sustain them.

The risk of leaving devolved authorities to fend for themselves is a particularly relevant concern for health and social care given that local authority budgets are already being heavily stretched in the beleaguered sector.

However, the PAC said that local bodies must take equal responsibility for their spending and be able to ensure value for money when they are delivering services.

“Devolution is not a miracle cure and central government cannot expect to wash its hands of problems to which it has no solutions,” Hillier said.

“[Central government’s] obligations to local citizens do not end with the signing of devolution deals; it can and should be doing more. We again call for it to properly acknowledge its responsibilities and respond meaningfully to our concerns.”

The government’s cities and local growth unit has now already negotiated and implemented 12 bespoke devolution deals in England, although three of them have since broken down.


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment



public sector executive tv

more videos >

last word

The importance of openness after Grenfell

The importance of openness after Grenfell

Following the recent Grenfell Tower tragedy, Lord Porter, chairman of the LGA, argues that if the public are going to have faith in the safety testing process then everything must be out in the open more > more last word articles >

public sector focus

View all News


Cities as places of opportunity

29/04/2019Cities as places of opportunity

Andrew Carter, chief executive of Centre for Cities, asks: if cities are pl... more >
Shaping healthy places with district councils

29/04/2019Shaping healthy places with district councils

District councils are achieving excellent outcomes by shifting health solut... more >


Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

17/12/2018Artificial intelligence: the devil is in the data

It’s no secret that the public sector and its service providers need ... more >

the raven's daily blog

Empower your reader, choose print

07/05/2019Empower your reader, choose print

We are on a digital rollercoaster, swirling and twirling through a variety of different online advertising platforms – have we forgotten about traditional marketing plat... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

editor's comment

25/10/2017Take a moment to celebrate

Devolution, restructuring and widespread service reform: from a journalist’s perspective, it’s never been a more exciting time to report on the public sector. That’s why I could not be more thrilled to be taking over the reins at PSE at this key juncture. There could not be a feature that more perfectly encapsulates this feeling of imminent change than the article James Palmer, mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, has penned for us on p28. In it, he highlights... read more >