Only one devolution deal sought in last financial year, government reveals
Whitehall update on English devolution sets out details of devolved funding areas in 2016-17
The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on government to 'jump-start the devolution debate. Photo: Fotolia
The government was only approached to agree one additional devolution deal in 2016-17, according to a government update published yesterday.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s annual report on devolution for 2016-17 outlines the proposal for a devolution deal in the North Tyne region, covering Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, the only one to be received by government that year.
The ministry is required to provide an annual update on the “areas of the country where proposals have been received by the secretary of state and negotiations have taken place but agreement has not yet been reached”.
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A devolution deal for North Tyne was later agreed in the November 2017 Budget, which will see the government invest £337m in the Tyne & Wear Metro to replace its 40-year-old trains with a new fleet. The agreement will also devolve control over the adult education budget, see the creation of an inclusive growth board to coordinate skills and employment, and includes a government pledge to collaborate with the region to boost trade and investment, digital infrastructure and rural growth across the area.
In September 2015, 38 proposed devolution deal plans were submitted to the then-Department for Communities and Local Government, but only 11 deals have subsequently been agreed. The North Tyne deal was an updated version of an initial deal for the North East of England, which was rejected by some of the participating councils.
Mark Hawthorne, the chair of the LGA’s people and places board, said the update showed that progress had stalled on new devolution deals across the country and warned there was “a real risk that areas without devolution deals will be left behind”.
Ministers must “jump-start the devolution debate”, he added.
“It is disappointing that this report, which has taken the government 10 months to publish, confirms that there were no new devolution deals in 2016-17,” he said.
“The devolution deals announced in the Autumn Budget were a step in the right direction and need to reignite the devolution process. Taking decisions closer to where people live is key to improving public services and unlocking inclusive growth. However, while local leaders in places such as the North of Tyne and the West Midlands can be justifiably proud of their achievements, many more such deals are required to allow communities across the country to benefit.
“The longer it takes to secure new devolution deals, the longer communities will have to wait to benefit from the opportunities currently available to areas where devolution has taken place,” he added. “These include having greater powers and funding to build more homes, secure the infrastructure essential to economic growth, and equip people with the skills they need to succeed.”
The MHCLG report also set out the progress of existing devolution deals and confirmed that the first portion of a loan of £300m had been given to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority as well as £170m to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough combined authority for housing projects.
Multi-year transport budgets and investment funds were also provided to the combined authorities with devolution deals, according to the report, as well as devolution of funds for adult education and apprenticeship schemes, local versions of the Work and Health Programme and further labour market programmes.
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