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CURDS decentralisation

New commission needed for smoother devolution

Published on: 10 May 2016

Decentralisation is happening in such an ad hoc and piecemeal way that it is hard to make it workable, say academics at Newcastle University.

Ad-hoc and piecemeal

Experts from the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS), say a new commission should be established to ensure the devolution of power to city-regions and counties in England is carried out more smoothly.

The current processes in place to devolve power are “ad-hoc and piecemeal, and are becoming more complex, uncertain and difficult to interpret, particularly for citizens,” say the academics.

Drawing from research funded by international organisations and the UK Government, their report, Decentralisation: Issues, Principles and Practice, states an independent Decentralisation Commission could bring ‘clarity and coherence to the decentralisation agenda’. It would bring together public, private and civic partners to help set out a ‘road map’ for devolution and develop and appraise different models of governance for city-regions and counties in England.

The authors say the aspirations and aims for decentralisation – such as local growth and public service reform – can be more likely achieved with better aligned, co-ordinated and simplified methods.

Manchester - one of the first areas to be given devolved powers

Key partners

CURDS Director Professor Andy Pike said: “While Government claims that devolution is a priority and will bring greater autonomy and benefits for those involved, the current approach lacks clear objectives and a road map for where it is heading, when and with whom, to address some of the thorny issues holding it up.

“There are issues with the devolution deals being made. For example, the way resources are being allocated is very uneven. There is a lack of transparency and there has been very little evaluation of how the deals are progressing to date, which makes you question whether this is sustainable.

“We also found potentially key partners such as business, higher and further education institutions and trades unions were not being included. Wider perspectives and voices were being missed as a result.

“Unsurprisingly, this is leading to dissent in some local areas, with the subjects of the new governance arrangements feeling disengaged from the process.

“We feel a commission could address such issues and make the process much easier to engage in and understand for central national government and for their local partners.”

Devolved areas

With the exception of London and Greater Manchester, the researchers also identified problems in how local authorities, health providers, the police, transport systems education and other partners will work across devolved areas.

Decentralisation: Issues, Principles and Practice, is launched today (10 May) at University College London. The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) Impact Acceleration Account initiative.


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