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Government to push forward with more devolution

Mike McCartney

13th September 2021

The Local Government Minister announced plans in an interview with the FT this week

It's back to devolution again.One of my favourite British Politics topics.

What are the arguments for and against again? A brief reminder:

These can be considered as the arguments in favour of English regional devolution

  • It is much more efficient to have the regions concerned with policy delivery involved in the formulation of policy,
  • On a related note, this would additionally this would relieve the burden on central government.
  • Evidence from the Celtic arenas suggests that there are clear benefits to bringing the government closer to the people since policies can be designed to fit the needs of the people in different regions
  • The governmental structures we have now are in need of remodelling: local government was designed to fit the needs of the mid-nineteenth century and central government expanded in the middle of the twentieth to meet the demands of that time.
  • Since the (unelected) Regional Development Agencies were scrapped in 2012 there is a lack of strategic co-ordination across many regions (except London, and Greater Manchester for example) with regards to economic development, regeneration, plans to boost employment, and so forth.
  • It would provide a counter-point to London-centricism; it is difficult to think of another polity that is so dominated economically and politically by its nation’s biggest city.
  • The regions in England need to have a platform that will give their area a voice enabling them to lobby central government for increased funding.

These can be considered as the arguments against English regional devolution

  • If every region in England were to have some sort of devolution, then regions would be fighting amongst themselves for the same amount of money that was available before.
  • Government would not be brought closer to the people unless the devolved powers assume real powers – as in Scotland.
  • Any new structures would merely add an extra layer of bureaucracy.
  • Regional assemblies would do little to improve economic performance within the regions.
  • Claims that devolution would usher in a new form of politics have not been borne out by experiences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

According to the paper today:

"Speaking to the Financial Times, Robert Jenrick reaffirmed the government’s “full devolution” approach, outlined in the Conservatives’ 2019 manifesto.

Jenrick said there is “interest” in creating the three mayoralties, while in other more rural areas of the country county deals may be more appropriate. He told the FT: “We would like to encourage parts of the country that want to come forward to do devolution deals with us.

“We unlocked the Sheffield city region, we now have Dan Jarvis as the mayor.

“We’ve created the West Yorkshire devolution deal and have a fully elected mayor there. There are other parts of the country that are negotiating with us.”

Jenrick praised Andy Street, the Conservative West Midlands mayor, and Labour’s Andy Burnham for using their powers effectively to improve their regions, arguing that devolution is about more than handing over money from central government.

He said: “It’s about being more innovative in the way we deliver public services and believing that there doesn’t need to be a single model for the whole country … what we want to do is work with the mayors with further measures.

“We can encourage them and work with high-performing councils to give them more power over the delivery of public services.”

See full story here: https://www.theguardian.com/po...



Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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