England & Wales Communities and society, Democracy, devolution and governance

A New Settlement: place and wellbeing in local government

The Covid-19 pandemic has been a momentous, historical rupture that is still unfolding. The opportunity to “level up” the country and “build back better” in local places following the crisis can only be grasped with a new constitutional, political and social settlement.

In this paper from our Local Democracy Research Centre we argue that building back better must include a new settlement for place that reconnects the government’s “levelling up” ambitions with the decentralisation of power in England. In recent years, the momentum on English devolution has been lost but the pandemic has underlined the fundamental importance of shifting power to places and people.

This new place settlement must:

    • Give local leaders the tools to pursue levelling up, while tackling three of the most urgent policy crises recently exacerbated by the pandemic:
      • Revitalising economic growth and ‘good’ jobs;
      • house building;
      • and social care.
    • Introduce a sustainable funding model for local government.
    • Ensure a commitment to further decentralisation across all Whitehall departments and give local government a stronger voice in national policy decisions.
    • Provide dedicated research infrastructure funding for councils to create a benchmark of local social wellbeing indicators that can inform future policy decisions.
  • Launch a local government-led “Building Back Better” commission.