The Momentum has gone out of the Devolution Agenda

Lord Heseltine in conversation with Charlotte Alldritt yesterday at an event organised by the Centre for Progressive Policy (Devolution: a path to prosperity or fragmentation?) indicated that he thought that the momentum had gone out of the devolution agenda. He had asked when the government would publish its devolution agenda as promised in its election manifesto and he had received the response: “in due course”. He had also asked what new powers had been given to metro mayors to level them up with the powers given to the mayor of Manchester after this had been promised by the Conservatives in 2019 and he had been told that no new powers had been granted to metro mayors.

Lord Heseltine was concerned that the government was going back to the old style: “Civil Service designed, ministerial determined Whitehall impost, and that really misses the point of devolution, which is to fire up and enthuse the strengths and opportunities of our economy across the country.” He considered the prime objective of devolution to be to make the country more prosperous. He thought that devolution could be a partnership between central government and the devolved entities to regenerate some of the country’s more deprived areas. Local knowledge and input played a great part in this which could be lost under a Westminster centric system.

Three key factors for the success of devolution were identified: leadership, powers and the right unit of geography. Lord Heseltine favoured the metro and unitary mayoral systems because a leader could be immediately identified; the powers devolved had to be sufficient to enable the devolved authority to get on with the job; and the area covered had to be a defined economy.

The party political system did not favour change because the government did not want to hand over power to an opposition mayor; local authorities did not want to merge because that could reduce the number of councillors; and nobody wanted to lose whatever authority they might already have. However, this resulted in an unacceptable position where little progress could be made.

A problem was that nobody cared about local government. The public were not really interested. The Redcliffe-Maud report of the 1960s had shown the way forward but this had still not been fully implemented.

From a Yorkshire devolution perspective, Lord Heseltine has got many of the economic aspects of devolution right and current developments are a step backwards, however, the reasons for devolution are more than just economic and to have the Redcliffe-Maud report brought up without mentioning that Yorkshire wants its own oversight authority is yet another kick in the teeth for Yorkshire devolution. It also reflects badly on the Yorkshire devolution movement as a whole, in that, after 50 years we have still not made our case effectively. We must MAKE OUR CASE!

To see the conversation in full, please follow the link.

One thought on “The Momentum has gone out of the Devolution Agenda

  1. At least Lord Heseltine has always been consistent in his pursuit of commercial development, whilst ignoring democracy, the people, culture and heritage.

    Not to mention the misleading title of this article!

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