devocomment: new PM, new chapter for devolution?


Category: devoComment

devointelligence has maintained since its start six long months ago that the face of UK politics is changing. How right we have been!

In the last few weeks there has been unprecedented change with a new Prime Minister following on after the Brexit vote – and a Labour leadership election to boot. But are we still on course for the devolution revolution?

The loss of Osborne to the backbenches as well as Greg Clark and James Wharton moving to elsewhere in Government, means that the only remaining previous champion of devo-deals is Lord O’Neill. However he has always been more interested in the economic potential of a pan-Northern powerhouse than its local government impact and proposed new governance model.

So could the 11 devo deals struck earlier this year be the high water mark for English devolution? Already some deals have unravelled – for example the North Midlands – but Greg Clark making one of his last speeches prior to reshuffle confidently stated there will be 9 elected Metro Mayors by May 2017.

But there are question marks in some areas. The whole East Anglia deal looks vulnerable. Greater Lincolnshire’s is currently out to public consultation. As reported elsewhere there is another delay in the North East and the Tees Valley Combined Authority is rethinking its plans in light of Brexit and the potential for UKIP or an independent becoming Mayor.

There is more confidence elsewhere. In three areas Labour have started selecting their candidates – Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and the West Midlands – with results due on 5th August. Sheffield look certain to join them after the summer and will probably be joined by the North East, West of England and Tees Valley.

However, the extension of devo deals into the Shire Counties now looks uncertain and resolving the unfinished business that is Leeds would need the new CLG Secretary, Sajid Javid, and Northern Powerhouse, Minister Andrew Percy, 100% behind it. Will they be persuaded to table a Greater Yorkshire deal as Jason McCartney MP, Co-Chair of the Yorkshire APPG, and others request?

The future devo agenda is bound to look different. Theresa May’s statement that she will bring forward “a plan to help not one or even two of our great regional cities but every single one of them” was encouraging. These words will not be forgotten but it does suggest that there will be more of a focus on England’s 30 plus largest cities and towns in the UK rather than the Core Cities.

Interestingly Andrew Percy on his first outing to Hull, Manchester and Liverpool, echoed this shift in policy when he said his goal was “to see every area benefiting from a growing economy”. But it is also worth remembering Theresa May supported elected Police and Crime Commissioners so expect more twists and turns in the new chapter for devolution.

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