Headlines: September 4th, 2015

At least £60 billion of central government spending should be devolved to local areas over the next five years, council leaders urge today.

The Local Government Association said cities and county areas across the country are set to meet today’s preliminary devolution deadline and submit deals to the Chancellor.

Local areas are calling for greater local powers and funding for skills, housing, transport and health and social care. ‘Spending Smarter: A Shared Commitment’, the LGA’s 2015 Spending Review submission, focuses on proposals to help councils drive efficiencies, transform business rates, create a partnership between central and local government to deliver targeted skills and employment initiatives, and prioritise the radical devolution of power within England.

The LGA, which speaks for more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is now urging George Osborne to match this ambition and use the Spending Review to devolve, or hand greater local control over, at least £60 billion worth of funding down to local areas.
It argues that taking decisions closer to where people live can achieve up to £20.6 billion in potential public sector savings as well as creating at least £80 billion in economic growth and 700,000 new jobs.

Cllr Gary Porter, LGA Chairman, said: “Local people know best how to spend money and run services in their local area. Taking decisions closer to where people live is key to rebalancing the economy and improving the services which bind our communities together and protect our most vulnerable.

“Councils and their partners have worked hard to get devolution deals in and produce innovative proposals to use public spending more effectively to meet local needs. Ministers have invited councils to continue coming forward with ambitious and innovative proposals and we hope they will maintain recent momentum over the course of the Parliament.

“In the negotiations that follow today, we urge the Government to match the ambitions shown by cities and county areas and ensure the benefits of devolution are extended to residents and businesses in all parts of the country.

“It is time to spend smarter on infrastructure to get maximum value from every public pound. This starts with a much more effective and efficient approach to investing in local growth and regeneration. With devolved decision making and funding, local areas can also better gear the skills system to tackle unemployment and underemployment and close skills gaps.

“Devolution is not an end in itself. If our public services are to survive the next five years, councils also need fairer funding alongside the freedom to pay for them.”