Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Flanders: time ripe for radical devo

  • Comment

Prime minister Theresa May’s call for a “country that works for everyone” has helped create an opportunity for radical devolution, according to the chair of the RSA Inclusive Growth Commission Stephanie Flanders.

The commission, published earlier this week, called for combined authorities to gain much greater control over services and spending than at present planned.

Speaking to LGC, former BBC economics editor Ms Flanders said: “I think this report helps give context to Theresa May’s talk of building a country that works for everyone not just the few, which was a striking part of her first speech as PM.

“You can do a lot at the local economic level, even without lots more money, as people at local level can manage the trade-offs between spending on different services better than those in Whitehall.

“I think there is an emerging consensus in the Treasury, and it is quite a ripe time to push this.”

She credited the change in thinking to former chancellor George Osborne’s support for the Northern Powerhouse, noting government support for the concept and for city deals had survived his departure.

The commission outlines proposals that would see the development of new “social contracts” between local government and Whitehall. 

Central government’s role would be to establish agreed common goals and standards and to monitor progress. Meanwhile devolved authorities would be given much more control over – and responsibility for – spending on economic and public services. This would amount to financial autonomy of more than about £70bn for the six combined authorities, which are electing new mayors in May this year. 

Ms Flanders suggested central government’s historic reluctance to devolve powers stemmed from a feeling that “once you have your hands on the levers it is hard to let go”. 

She said: “Just transferring things from central government to local government will not do much.

“In health and social care you can still have Whitehall thinking about provision of these services and local providers delivering them, but it is local government that makes the decisions on trade-offs for example between preventative and emergency services. They are likely to be able to make better decisions than someone sitting in Whitehall.”



  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.