Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, yesterday confirmed in a Written Statement to the House of Commons that the Government has reached landmark devolution agreements with Local Authorities in the Liverpool City Region and in the West Midlands.
Both agreements will give Local Authority leaders far-reaching new powers and enable voters in each Region to directly elect Mayors in 2017 who will act as Chair of their respective Combined Authorities and take on significant new powers over strategic planning and control of multi-million pound investment allocations over 30 years to try and realise the economic potential of their local areas.
Local Enterprise Partnerships have played a key role in the negotiation of both these agreements which are understood to signify the Government’s overall direction of travel in looking to negotiate bespoke devolution settlements on a place by place basis with key UK Regions who make a compelling case for receiving new powers.
The announcement follows on from the establishment of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in 2011 and other combined authorities established in the North-East, West Yorkshire, Sheffield and Liverpool in April 2014. (The authorities in Greater Manchester, Sheffield and West Yorkshire have also recently been offered additional powers via ‘devolution deals’ in late 2014 and early 2015).
A number of other areas have discussed establishing combined authorities with the Government: Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire (a joint bid for two combined authorities) and Tees Valley have all begun formal governance reviews. The option has also been raised in devolution prospectuses from Leicestershire; Hampshire and the Isle of Wight; Gloucestershire; Lincolnshire; North and East Yorkshire; Greater Essex; and Norfolk and Suffolk (jointly). Other areas may also be considering pursuing this option.
In a significant move earlier this month, a number of MPs in the South Region announced that they had joined forces to form a new Hampshire & Isle of Wight All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) where they will be working together to try and get a better deal for residents across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight on issues related to infrastructure, planning and devolution. It has also been reported that initial devolution proposals for a ‘Hampshire and Isle of Wight Combined Authority’ have been seen by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and that if the bid is given the green light by Government in the coming weeks, a public consultation will take place across the whole county in the New Year.
The publication of the Government’s joint Spending Review and Autumn Statement is eagerly awaited on 25th November where it is thought there might be further announcements related to devolution agreements and planning.