Devolution Bulletin - March 2022

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Devolution Bulletin

March 2022

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Welcome to the March 2022 edition of the LGA’s Devolution Improvement and Support Bulletin. 

As the dust settles from the arrival of Levelling Up White Paper, we know many areas are starting to look at what the new devolution framework might mean for them. Whether your area is already forging ahead with negotiating a deal or whether you’re just starting to think about how greater devolution could help your area, the LGA can support you. Out this month is a new publication on fiscal devolution to combined authorities, and we have a wealth of resources on our devolution hub, including a video to help explain devolution to residents. We can also offer bespoke support – so please don’t hesitate to contact your Principal Adviser to set up a conversation about how we can help you.  

This month has seen plenty of activity on devolution and levelling up, with ministers appearing before the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee in Parliament and new publications out from the County Councils Network and Localis 

We’ve also launched a new UK Shared Prosperity Fund hub to help councils develop their Local Improvement Plans. There’s more on this below, and as usual please do get in touch if you’d like to see your good practice feature in the next edition of the bulletin.  


DLUHC begins recruitment of 12 levelling up directors  

The Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has opened applications for 12 new levelling up directors. These directors will cover nine English regions and the three devolved nations. They will be expected to work with local partners, senior officials and ministers to deliver levelling up and report to the newly established Levelling Up Cabinet Committee.  

Levelling Up Fund Second Round launched  

In his Spring Statement, the Chancellor announced the launch of the second round of the Levelling Up Fund. Alongside this announcement, the Government published a refreshed prospectus, and invited bids from all eligible organisations across the UK.  

Judicial Review paves way for shake up of Greater Manchester buses  

Greater Manchester Combined Authority is going to become the first area outside London to return its bus network to public control, after a judge ruled in favour of the Combined Authority. This move to a franchised model means fares and routes will be set by local authorities. However, bus firm Rotala has appealed against the ruling.  

Eastern Powerhouse launched   

On 15 March the Eastern Powerhouse was launched in Westminster. The Eastern Powerhouse aims to bring together leading business people, politicians and journalists from across the East of England to create a “business plan for the East” to connect local places and drive growth in the region. 

LGA Urban Summit  

The LGA’s inaugural Urban Summit took place on 9 March, brought together local government leaders, academics, think tanks, and other public sector stakeholders to discuss the big issues facing cities and towns over the next 30 years. Slides from the event are available on the LGA website. If you have a vision for the future of cities, we’d love to hear it - please share your thoughts with us. We’ll be presenting the next stage of this work at the LGA’s Annual Conference. 


Combined authorities: Financial freedoms and fiscal devolution 

This new report from the LGA and WPI Economics assesses how freely combined authorities are able to raise and spend funding. Building on previous work done in 2018, the report looks at the financial powers available to combined authorities, if and how they are used, and what constraints Government puts on these powers.  

Quantifying levelling up 

The County Councils Network (CCN) and Grant Thornton released a report on quantifying levelling up, drawn from a roundtable discussion they hosted. This aims to explore the challenges and opportunities for county authorities in the levelling up agenda, how local areas can move from policy to delivery and how local government can be enabled to enact genuine change on the ground.  

Bigger is still Not Better report 

District Council Network's (DCN) new report, written by Professor Colin Copus, looks at the evidence base on the impacts of changing local government size. It looks at the role districts will play in connecting communities to levelling up efforts, how districts can foster collaboration between councils and other organisations, and the work needed to encourage more inter-council joint working, instead of reorganisation to achieve levelling up ambitions.   

Resetting the South East: levelling up after Brexit, Covid and climate change 

A new report from Localis makes the case for greater devolution of economic control, infrastructure investment and transport coordination to the South East. It argues that this would empower local councils to alleviate deprivation, especially in costal areas, improve quality of life for residents and help the Government to deliver Net Zero ambitions.   

Is public service spending aligned with the ‘levelling up’ agenda? 

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) is starting a new project, funded by the Health Foundation to analyse how spending is currently allocated between different places in England, how and why this has changed in recent years, and how this aligns with the Government’s plans for levelling up.

In Parliament

Rural Communities in Cumbria: Levelling Up - Westminster Hall Debate  

Dr Neil Hudson MP (Penrith and The Border, Con) moved a debate on levelling up rural communities in Cumbria. He highlighted the importance of not confining levelling up to towns and cities, the challenges faced by rural areas, and the need for Government to work cross-departmentally to deliver levelling up.  

Neil O’Brien, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities responded to the debate, agreeing with many of the points raised and emphasising that “we must have a levelling-up agenda that works with the grain of what is going on locally”.  

Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee  

Neil O’Brien and Andy Haldane gave oral evidence on the Levelling Up White Paper. They answered questions from the committee on a variety of issues including accountability, the 12 ‘missions’, the devolution framework, the role of district councils, public engagement through the creation of devolution deals, and local industrial strategies.  

Parliamentary Oral Questions  

This month’s Levelling Up, Housing and Communities oral questions included questions levelling up in Northern Ireland, the impact of the Levelling Up White Paper on regional inequality, levelling up rail investment in Wales, and the transparency of Levelling Up Fund allocation.  

Levelling up also featured in Transport oral questions, with questions on the impact of the reduction of Transport for the North’s budget on levelling up in the north of England, and on levelling up bus services in Newcastle.  

Parliamentary Written Questions   

Sharing ideas

New UKSPF hub launched  

The Government published the pre-launch guidance for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund at the start of February. We are expecting there to be a further announcement including the prospectus and allocations for the fund sometime in May. We have created a UKSPF hub which signposts councils to the relevant Government information, as well as to good practice and guidance which may be helpful for lead authorities as they develop their improvement plans. 

Explaining devolution to residents  

The Levelling Up White Paper promised to extend, deepen and simplify devolution, meaning many areas are now thinking about devolution deals. The LGA’s devolution hub has resources to help councils explain to residents about devolution. One of these is a short video which explains in very basic terms how devolution works, for use on council websites and social media channels. If you’d like more information about the devo hub and the resources available to councils and residents please get in touch 

Share your ideas  

Is your council leading the way on explaining devolution to residents? Or maybe you’re using your combined authority’s powers in new and innovative ways? If you’ve got best practice to share, please get in touch and you could see your council feature in the next edition of this devolution bulletin!