Devolution for the North after Brexit – Why it’s Now More Important than Ever
Since 2010, colleagues and I in Councils across the North of England have been working with the Government to design and deliver devolved powers for our economy and our towns and cities, through city deals and other devolution agreements.
The process hasn’t been universal, or without its bumps. But what we have delivered has brought in some real powers and funding, in particular in terms of transport and skills, to local regions, cities and communities.
Brexit will be a game changer for the UK economy, making devolution and localism more important than ever. The Local Government Association and other commentators are correct when they say that communities need a strong voice in this process and that Brexit must go hand in hand with more devolved powers to regions across the UK.
One lesson we can learn from Europe and beyond is that regions and cities with strong local powers and greater control of their own finances are economically stronger with less inequality. Local control and local accountability makes public investment better targeted and public services more accountable to those they serve.
We may see choppy economic waters ahead. If so, giving local regions the powers and flexibility they need to respond quickly and effectively to threats, to protect existing jobs and to attract new ones will be vital. The more powers local areas have to work with business – the more effective that relationship will be.
The question is not about mayors or a different governance model; it is about powers for places. This is a vital in the long term to ensure that every place in the north has a sustainable future. The Victorian Northern Powerhouse was not built by Whitehall but by business and regions in the north developing their economies together. The more devolution we secure – the greater our opportunity to emulate the success of our predecessors in our towns and cities.
My hope is that the Government’s forthcoming industrial strategy recognises this truth, and gives us the tools and freedom to make our places an asset, not only to the people who live, work, learn and play in them, but also to UK PLC as a whole. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved so far and want to us to go on to give the north the power to determine its own future.
Chief Executive of Wakefield Council – Joanne Roney OBE