William Eichler 02 March 2020

Government urged to 'think big' to tackle regional inequalities

Government urged to think big to tackle regional inequalities image

A comprehensive review of economic decline and social division has called for a ‘large-scale, comprehensive, long-term and devolved’ plan of action to deliver change.

The UK2070 Commission’s report found that regional inequalities in the UK continue to increase, with real growth in productivity being almost twice the average in London and nearly 50% of employment growth being in the south-east.

Commission chair Lord Kerslake, the former head of the civil service, said many people in Britain felt ‘left behind’ by growth elsewhere and that had contributed to the ‘acrimonious debate about Europe’.

He said: ‘They [the inequalities] reflect an over-centralised system that fails to comprehend the reality of regional need and consistently comes up with policies that are either under-resourced, too fragmented or too short-lived to make a difference.

‘The scale of the challenge we face is such that we need a generational shift if we are to avoid serious decline and division.’

The commission called for a devolution of powers and resources from central government to local communities.

Chair of the Local Government Association’s city regions board, Sir Richard Leese, said: ‘Taking decisions over how to run local services closer to where people live is key to improving them.

‘With the promised White Paper due this year, councils want to work with the Government to reignite devolution in England.

'Any new approach needs to move beyond bespoke deals with individual areas to a devolution baseline – a package of devolved powers that is available to all of English local government.

'These new powers need to be underpinned by statute so that they, along with those powers already devolved through existing deals, provide a sustainable long-term basis to drive inclusive growth across England.’

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The new reforms mean local authorities need to mobilise, but is this what’s really required? Paul Beaney reports.
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