We welcome the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, It offers a real opportunity to rebalance the political and economic landscape of the UK away from Westminster.
But we would like to see devolution go further: to include real fiscal devolution of the sort our local authority members tell us they want and need. Our finance survey in February 2015 found that over 90 per cent of councils felt the local government finance system is not fit for purpose, unpredictable and outside their control.
We know that if councils are really to grow local economies and reform local services, they need the ability to raise and spend money locally, by varying business rates for example, and not just to manage devolved budgets from central government.
We would also like to see devolution go wider: to include the counties and other parts of the country outside the major cities. Those areas are to be offered a variation of the Growth Deal programme from the last parliament, we’d like to see this allow a similar level of ambition to city devolution.
Most importantly, we must move away from a cumbersome Whitehall led process for devolution. If we want to see these reforms happen at scale and at speed, councils should have the opportunity and the responsibility to put forward creative proposals for how to make devolution work in their areas. Government’s default position should be to let it happen wherever these key tests are met.
See here for our Queen’s Speech policy briefing.