It is often said you should be careful of what you wish for. Devolution is no exception.
Communities secretary Greg Clark, who apparently expected a mere dozen growth proposals ahead of the 4 September deadline, recently voiced his surprise at the keenness of the response from local authorities.
We at the County Councils Network (CCN) and District Councils’ Network (DCN) are proud that shire areas assembled the majority of these 38 devolution bids.
The participation of so many CCN and DCN members with the process can only buttress the government’s core objectives of rebalancing the national economy and reducing the deficit.
Their involvement will also reinforce urgent attempts to reform our public services in the headwinds of November’s spending review. Against this looming announcement, a sense of fair shares is also important. We remain fully committed to principles that must be at the heart of a fair and effective devolution settlement.
Sir John Peace’s independent commission made clear last year that areas outside the large cities accounted for 56% of national GVA. Over the last five years, the urban and rural economies represented by our members have been the largest net contributors to national growth and to the Exchequer’s coffers.
Looking ahead, we want to proceed in partnership on the basis of shared working and understanding of place, people and functional economic geography. This isn’t a distant future. Given the progress county and district areas have made in setting out unified and ambitious proposals in the run up to 25 November we can expect the imminent announcement of further devolution deals which include our areas.
With this in mind, the CCN and DCN are holding a joint summit to further embed the work our members are undertaking locally and understand how counties and districts can best respond to this emerging devolutionary world.
We must build on the ambition of existing proposals in county and district areas, learn the lessons from successful bids and share best practice so devolution happens in all of England.
Unity is the key that unlocks the devolution door. This is the message we must heed from bids now nearing completion, from areas that have engaged in detailed discussions with the Treasury over many months.
Counties and districts are working together, delivering devolution proposals for our areas and promoting wider collaboration.
This means shifting the debate to how authorities across tiers and boundaries can deliver better outcomes for local communities in the most effective way. People living in districts and counties are the same voters, after all, and deserve no less say over the services they rely on than people living in cities.
Paul Carter (Con), chairman of the County Councils Network, and Neil Clarke (Con), chairman of the District Councils’ Network