CCN calls for ‘new deal’ on devolving powers to counties

County councils have today called for a “new deal” to reshape the government’s relationship with rural England and grant a greater devolution of powers to these areas.

Releasing its blueprint for the next five years called ‘A New Deal For Counties’, the County Councils Network (CCN) outlines the priorities for counties over the next few years and urges the government to work with them to address funding problems and match ambitions for more powers.

The organisation has also said that the government should start the process of devolution in England’s counties.

Previously, the CCN had criticised Whitehall for not giving counties a seat at the table over how issues like Brexit will affect local communities. It also stated that it is imperative that government commits to a fair funding review in the absence of business rates legislation.

In the document, the CCN has backed proposals by Localis to devolve by default a range of powers to ‘Strategic Authorities’ to deliver the benefits of devolution.

In other areas, the report also sets out ambitions to support the government’s housebuilding drive through a greater role for counties, as well as calling for a long-term solution to the social care crisis.

“Counties have the ambition, track record and appetite to do much more,” said CCN Chairman, Cllr Paul Carter. “We look forward to working with central government on a new, fair and constructive way forward.

“For this to become a reality we need government to work with Counties to deliver a ‘new deal’ for our areas that delivers fairness for our residents, but also trusts and empowers us.”

Cllr Carter also said that high-quality frontline services cannot be delivered when counties are the lowest funded authorities in England.

“If new deals are being agreed in other parts of the United Kingdom, then so should the areas that form the backbone of England’s society and economy,” he added.

“If devolution can be achieved in our great cities, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, it can work for the great counties of England.  The potential of our economies and the desire of our 26 million residents for local decision making cannot be overlooked.”

His colleague, CCN director, Simon Edwards added that the organisation wants to “work constructively with this government and influence officials across Whitehall and the wider sector; presenting evidence-based solutions at a time of uncertainty in Westminster”.

Edwards said the CCN would continue standing up for its members in ensuring that this administration’s promises are enacted, especially the fairer funding review.

“At the same time, government can only deliver a successful Industrial Strategy if it places more of an emphasis on county economies and we work towards ambitious and appropriate devolution settlements for their areas,” he explained.

“Importantly, this document highlights the priorities for CCN over the coming period and our objective to work closely with our national partners, including the LGA, to achieve the ambitions of our member councils.”

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