The government has confirmed that it will set out its approach to devolution in England and provide clarity to areas “as soon as practicable” after Brexit, but has rejected the idea of a further English devolution bill.
The Commons housing, communities and local government committee recently recommended a new English devolution bill to ensure ”real devolution to all parts of England”. However, responding to the committee’s report on Brexit and Local Government, the government said it does not intend to legislate for this because of the risk of creating “unduly rigid bureaucracy” of the kind it claims many find ”so unattractive in some of the current European structures”.
The government also rejected calls for it to commit to publishing its long awaited devolution framework within a month of the UK leaving the EU, saying instead that it aims to provide local areas with clarity on how best to take forward their devolution and local growth ambitions “as soon as practicable”.
The framework was first mooted in the Conservative’s 2017 manifesto but has yet to materialise.
Decisions on what form devolution will take in future will be informed by the experience of city-region mayoral devolution deals already in place, the government’s response to the committee said.
In its response to the ten recommendations made in the report, the government also said that it sees the full implementation of the Sheffield City Region devolution deal as “a priority” and that it is ready to consider a different localist approach to devolution across Yorkshire, “if that is the local wish”.
Last month, the government gave the green light to the South Yorkshire devolution deal, following a breakthrough in March in the stalled £30m a year deal for the Sheffield City Region. The four South Yorkshire council leaders and mayor Dan Jarvis agreed to go ahead with the devolution deal first agreed in 2015 on the basis that the councils involved could choose to join a devolution deal for the whole of Yorkshire when the mayor’s term comes to an end in 2022.
The government also says it will consult local government on relevant domestic policies and legislation after Brexit, declaring that it will make a statement in Parliament “in due course” giving local government a clear assurance on how matters currently handled at EU level will be repatriated to the UK. It said the government would continue its “constructive discussions” with the Local Government Association on proposals for new consultative arrangements until a decision is made on how to proceed.
In response to the committee’s call for government to do more to ward off skills shortages post Brexit, the government said that it is “paying specific attention” to sectors reliant on significant numbers of EU nationals, such as adult social care, construction and agriculture.