Devolution deals damaged by ‘endless tinkering’ by central government

“Endless tinkering” with government policy and reorganisation has done damage to regional devolution deals, a report by Institute for Government (IfG) has warned, arguing that the current government’s lack of support for devolution could signal “yet another change of direction in the drive for regional governance that works”.

The review looked into the rapid rate of change to government policies and how this had affected many sectors, including regional government, as well as industrial strategy and further education.

The reason for the changes, or ‘churn’ as the IfG called it, could be put down to a number of factors, including disagreement about the purpose of regional governments, as well as around the appropriate spatial level to which to devolve powers and Whitehall’s unwillingness to trust existing local institutions.

“In the space of just over 20 years, the main vehicles for regional governance have included government offices, regional assemblies, regional development agencies and, currently, local enterprise partnerships,” the report stated.

“The governance of public services has been so continually rearranged that scholars have termed the phenomenon ‘redisorganisation’.”

The institute identified a number of other issues as blocking the way for reform. For example, it argued citizens were unsure about the role of regional governance, explaining: “On the one hand, there is some evidence that citizens instinctively feel the existence of regional bodies that can engage businesses is likely to be good for local economic prospects.

“On the other hand, citizens have opposed more government bureaucracy and, in the past, rebuffed attempts to introduce elected assemblies at a regional level.”

Emma Norris, IfG programme director, said: “The sheer scale of change to these key government policy areas is astounding – not just because of the costs incurred, but also the effect on people’s lives.”

Norris called on central government to “safeguard” against wasting more time, money and resources on endless changes that result in “little progress”.

“This churn is not simply a result of changes in government. It highlights persistent weaknesses in our system of government: the tendency to change and to recreate rather than commit to stable, well-evidenced policy,” she concluded.

DCLG were contacted for comment by PSE, but at the time of writing had not sent a response. 

Have you got a story to tell? Would you like to become a PSE columnist? If so, click here 


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment


public sector executive tv

more videos >

latest news

View all News


Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Bei... more >
How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

19/06/2019How community-led initiatives can help save the housing shortage

Tom Chance, director at the National Community Land Trust Network, argues t... more >

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 >

last word

Prevention: Investing for the future

Prevention: Investing for the future

Rob Whiteman, CEO at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance (CIPFA), discusses the benefits of long-term preventative investment. Rising demand, reducing resource – this has been the r more > more last word articles >


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

Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

23/06/2020Cleaner, greener, safer media: Increased ROI, decreased carbon

Evolution is crucial in any business and Public Sector Executive is no different. Long before Covid-19 even became a thought in the back of our minds, the team at PS... more >
read more blog posts from 'the raven' >

public sector events

events calendar


August 2020

mon tue wed thu fri sat sun
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31 1 2 3 4 5 6

featured articles

View all News