Written evidence from Tom Barrett (EDE 07)
Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee
The Evolution of Devolution: English Devolution
Devolution in England should be undertaken on a regional basis. Every place should have four levels of governance (e.g. parish, district, region, nation) each with clear roles and responsibilities that are safeguarded by law.
1. Should there be comprehensive reform of the English devolution and local government system?
Yes. Not only does local government have the mix of places having either a two-tier or single-tier system of governance, there are also Combined authorities (some with mayor, some not), Police and Crime Commissioners, Integrated Transport Authorities and Local Enterprise Partnerships adding much confusion. Where devolution deals have been struck, they are just that “deals” between council leaders and central government, where powers and resources can vary greatly.
2. What aims and principles should underpin devolution in England? Every region should have, or at least have the right to, the same powers and resources. The devolved administrations should be protected by law / constitution.
3. Should devolution in England use the reserved powers to bring it in line with devolution in the rest of the UK? Yes, a number of matters do not need to be decided from Westminster and each region can set its own policy.
4. To what extent should there be consistency in devolved and local governance within England, and to what extent is asymmetry necessary? Every place in England have four tiers of government (neighbourhood, city, region, nation) and take as much power as possible from central government/ Every level of government should be accountable to the one below. Significant decisions should be signed off by every area in the tier of government below.
5. What is the purpose of current the “devolution” deals and mechanisms? Are these purposes being achieved? These are agreed by politicians not communities, with local politicians backed into a corner by Westminster to accept the “deal” and the financial settlement it provides. As a West Yorkshire resident it is too early to say what impact the devolution deal has had.
6. How should decisions on English devolution be agreed? A Citizens Assembly, or various in different regions of England should be asked to draw up proposals for how best to govern their area, with agreement between the areas councils and MPs. Participatory democracy and building from the bottom up are key to getting devolution right.
7. How should the interests of different parts or regions of England be better represented to central government and in intergovernmental arrangements as well as in Parliament?
Devolving decisions (and therefore large parts of the civil service) to regional administrations a smaller proportionately elected House of Commons and a fully elected House of Lords.
8. Is there a public demand for such structures/measures?a. On what basis should the form, geography and extent of devolved regions or areas be determined, and what should be the role of culture and identity? Culture and Identity are key to making devolution successful and this is something that participatory democracy should inform. The size of regions should strike a balance between representing specific geographic needs of places, but large enough to have clout on a national and European stage. Too many regions would be likely to lead to devolution being watered down, as it would be difficult to replicate the devolved administrations that exist in Scotland and Wales to the type of geographies that have secured devolution deals to date. 8-12 regions loosely based on the NUTS1 regions but giving recognition of regions with significant cultural identity such as Cornwall would be a good starting point.