Councils demand more devolution deals

Written by Jim Dunton on 5 May 2017 in News

Local Government Association asks all parties to commit to further devo rollout in their election manifestos

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Whichever party forms the next government must pursue a new round of devolution deals that offer to shift power from Whitehall to rural and non-metropolitan areas, council leaders have said.  

The Local Government Association, which represents roughly 370 councils in England and Wales, said enabling new local approaches to investment in infrastructure, housing and public services was crucial to driving economic growth and should feature in all the main political parties’ manifestos.

The call is one of 10 core demands from councils, which also included a call for the business rates reform to continue in a way that both rewards authorities that drive economic growth but protects areas with more challenged economies.

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Councils had been due to move to a self-financing that would see them retain 100% of business rates by 2020. However, the measure was part of the Local Government Finance Bill 2016-17, which has been killed off by the snap general election.

The LGA said it wanted to see a wide-ranging review of business rates that aimed to modernise the way different ratepayers were affected, and which “ensured” sectors such as online businesses made a fair contribution.

At a time when dealing with the nation’s housing crisis is likely to figure prominently on the main parties’ election manifestos, the LGA is seeking borrowing and investment powers for new affordable homes, and the right to keep 100% of the receipts from any homes they sell under the government's Right to Buy scheme.

More ambitiously, the lobby group wants an additional £5.8bn in funding over the years to 2020 to cover projected shortfalls in social care, children’s services, refuse collection and highway maintenance allocations.

LGA chair Lord Gary Porter said local authorities had a key role to play in helping to generate economic growth, building homes and protecting vulnerable people and that their powers needed to be strengthened in the election campaign.

“The need for financial sustainability for local government is urgent,” he said.

"Councils need fairer funding to continue to provide the full range of services that support their local communities, alongside a fairer funding system for all schools.

“To build new homes, create jobs, provide the dignified care for our elderly and boost economic growth, all councils also need greater freedom from central government to take decisions over vital services in their area.”

Lord Porter, who is a Conservative peer, said parties would see councils deliver if the LGA’s manifesto wishes were granted.

The LGA also has demands that relate to Brexit. It wants a commitment for local government to have a voice in how powers repatriated to the UK from the European Union are exercised in future, with a “double devolution” ambition that they should not simply be handed to Westminster, Stormont, Cardiff Bay, or Holyrood.

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Jim Dunton
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