County councils have urged the new Government to focus less on cities and to invest more in towns and deprived communities to help level up ‘left-behind’ areas.
County Councils Network argues there is a ‘misconception’ that shire counties are all affluent and, they warn, ‘city centric’ regional devolution policies could prevent shire councils being able to invest in deprived communities.
The CCN called on Whitehall to ensure county areas receive a fair share of funding for public services, more investment in economic growth, and an extension of devolved powers to the shires.
The think tank says that failure to invest in county areas, and to solve the social care funding crisis, will leave these councils facing a funding shortfall of £13.2bn over the next five years.
‘Counties are home to some of our most prosperous and successful areas, but we must not forget that the majority of left behind areas are located within counties; from deprived towns in the north and south, rural and coastal communities in the south-west and east, to former manufacturing hotbeds in the Midlands,’ said Cllr David Williams, CCN chairman and leader of Hertfordshire County Council.
‘If the Government is to improve the lives of the communities it has pledged to support, then ministers and policymakers must move beyond the misconception that shire counties are all affluent, with this document setting out the tools, powers, and funding needed to unleash the potential of counties.
‘If the Government is to genuinely level-up towns, build more homes, and improve regional growth we need more devolved powers, reform to our planning system and access to new funding streams. This will mean moving away from a city centric policy obsession in Westminster that has held back those left-behind communities for decades.’