Commission needed to solve lack of ‘clear objectives’ in devolution

A new devolution commission is needed to bring greater transparency to the whole process, researchers from the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS) at Newcastle University have said.

The latest report from CURDS, ‘Decentralisation: Issues, Principles and Practice’ warned that current devolution arrangements are being implemented in a piecemeal way that makes government oversight and citizen involvement difficult.

CURDS recommended clarifying the principles of devolution and creating an independent Decentralisation Commission to develop and appraise devolution models.

Professor Andy Pike, chair of CURDS, said: “While government claims that devolution is a priority and will bring greater autonomy and benefits for those involved, the current approach lacks clear objectives and a road map for where it is heading, when and with whom, to address some of the thorny issues holding it up.

“There are issues with the devolution deals being made. For example, the way resources are being allocated is very uneven. There is a lack of transparency and there has been very little evaluation of how the deals are progressing to date, which makes you question whether this is sustainable.

“Unsurprisingly, this is leading to dissent in some local areas, with the subjects of the new governance arrangements feeling disengaged from the process. We feel a commission could address such issues and make the process much easier to engage in and understand for central national government and for their local partners.”

The latest Budget included further government devolution deals, but the deal for East Anglia was rejected by councillors.

Call for more devolution oversight bodies and public participation

The researchers also said that there should be a National Constitutional Convention to connect governance of England questions into broader UK governance deliberations, and potentially regional select committees to support metro-mayors.

They added that combined authorities need increased oversight from both Parliament and the public through bodies such as citizens’ assemblies.

Other recommendations from CURDS include a comprehensive review of the balance of taxing, spending and redistribution between local and national levels, and greater involvement of businesses, trade unions and universities in the devolution process.

A survey from Centre for Cities, published today, found the majority of residents of metro-mayor areas are in favour of the mayors having more powers than local councils.

However, they thought mayors should tackle issues such as healthcare and education that aren’t currently within their remit.

The CURDS report is the second piece of recent major criticism of government devolution efforts, following a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Reform, Decentralisation and Devolution, headed by Lord Kerslake, which called them “piecemeal and incoherent”.

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Geoff Armer   12/05/2016 at 17:43

If we carry on with the Northern Powerhouse etc we will just end up with a dog's dinner. The English Regions, Wales and NI should have their own parliaments with the same powers as the Scottish Parliament. Then Westminster would only be responsible for defence, foreign affairs and macroeconomics requiring far fewer MPs who could be elected representatives of the regions. All this done by a form of PR, of course. Look at Germany, USA, Australia etc.

Dixie Hughes   12/05/2016 at 17:58

English "Devolution" is just Blair's Regional Assemblies re-branded; and a step towards the EU's "divide & rule" by region. England does not need another layer of local government; except perhaps its own Parliament.

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