The Government has been warned against adopting a ‘one size fits all’ devolution model, with the sector highlighting the needs of local areas in response to the Cities Devolution Bill.
While many in the local government sector have welcomed the extra powers offered in exchange for a change in governance, concerns over the limitations and risks of the plans have emerged.
The Local Government Association (LGA) urged the Government to ensure all areas benefit from extra freedoms and flexibilities, not just the major cities. Cllr David Sparks, chair of the LGA, all parts of the country ‘need greater freedom from Whitehall’.
‘We are now urging government to go further and set out a new settlement for all of England which devolves decisions on important issues like skills, housing, transport, care and infrastructure,’ he said. ‘This is vital if the economy is to prosper and good quality public services are to survive.’
The director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), Nick Baveystock, added: ‘Government must therefore resist the desire for standardisation and instead be guided by the needs, ambition and capacity of each area. Local areas also need to rise to the challenge – demonstrating how they will make the best use of powers and contribute to UK wide goals.’
IPPR North agreed that smaller towns and cities are a crucial part of devolution and can help drive region’s growth is they ‘share in the benefits of new powers and prosperity’.
IPPR North director, Ed Cox, said: ‘We have long argued metro mayors are vital to build visible leadership and democratic accountability necessary for the more radical devolution of taxation and spending we want to see. But even in this arena, the chancellor needs to recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all model for metro mayors.’
The Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) also warned that rural areas should not be ‘bypassed’ when reallocating power and resources.
John Allan, FSB national chairman, said: ‘There are lessons to be learnt from the setting up of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) which should not be ignored. Increased localism doesn't automatically lead to better outcomes. This requires strong governance arrangements to ensure accountability, transparency and local small business engagement.’
He added that the FSB did not support local variation in business rates as this could lead to confusion or increased costs for businesses.