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Devolution deals ‘first stage’ in a long journey – interview with Mark Lloyd

The current wave of devolution deals are being viewed as a “first stage” in a multi-layered process in strengthening the role of local government to lead communities, according to the new CEO of the Local Government Association (LGA).  

Mark Lloyd, previously the chief executive of Cambridgeshire County Council, took the reins only two weeks ago, and believes his frontline experience will help his new colleagues at the LGA understand just what a “tough gig” it is right now running councils politically and managerially, and to “ensure we are in tune with those challenges”. 

Speaking to PSE in the same week devolution deals for the Midlands and Liverpool were signed, Lloyd said the deals were welcomed, “but I think all councils would recognise we are on a journey”. 

“Some councils, leaders and chief executives have said to me that they are viewing their initial devolution deal simply as stage one,” he said. “That allows them to build their credibility [and] allows them to demonstrate capacity and competence. 

“And their expectation, and mine, is that we add layer two, layer three and layer four of the devolution deals as part of a move from such a centralised state to a much more localised approach to shaping and leading public services and driving growth.” 

The latest devolution deals, like most others, will include a mayor. But Lloyd stated that it will ultimately be for local councils to decide how far they wish to shift in terms of governance models in return for a strengthened position in the devolution negotiation. 

“It will be for local councils to decide whether they wish to pursue a mayoral model or think that other structures, like a Combined Authority, are appropriate,” he said. 

“It is relatively clear, so far, that the partner in the negotiation – central government – are prepared to agree bigger deals if local areas adopt the model of governance they consider to be the strongest.” 

Lloyd, who has also been in talks ahead of the chancellor’s Spending Review, added the LGA doesn’t have a position for or against mayors. 

“What we have a position on is trying to get very strong devolution deals for our councils, and we will do everything we can to support them in those negotiations, which will include supporting them to evaluate different governance models – but they have to pick one that is right for their local area, not have somebody like me tell them what the answer is.” 

Discussing life post next week’s Spending Review, Lloyd noted that the reality for councils is the workforce capacity will reduce further in the next five years and that there will be service reductions. 

The full interview with Mark Lloyd will appear in the Dec/Jan edition of PSE. 


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