Economic growth through devolution

This briefing offers cities and counties of all sizes a routemap towards devolution - from major city regions to smaller cities working with their surrounding counties.

Briefing published on 19 November 2014 by Centre for Cities

This paper sets out a detailed approach to devolution to city regions and city-county areas in England to enable them to drive local and national economic growth.

For major city regions, combined authorities are the preferred option. In this paper we provide the detail on what powers should be devolved and to where, as well as the leadership and accountability measures required.

For smaller and medium-sized cities, many of which are under-bounded and under-powered, the way forward is less clear. To address this complexity, we suggest a two-step model which brings cities and their economically-linked counties together, on an equal footing.

The plan set out in this paper is clear and explicit, but not definitive. Whilst it moves the debate forward and provides a workable plan, it is not a final solution or template that can simply be applied to all places.

We also recognise that beyond the pragmatic approach set out here, there are difficult yet legitimate questions that need to be answered:

  • Can effective devolution to city-regions and city-county areas across the country be achieved without local government re-organisation?
  • What happens in places where a bottom-up, consensus-based approach fails to produce any new arrangements?
  • How can we convince government that significant fiscal devolution must come hand in hand with any devolution of funding and policy control?

Devolution is a long game, and the Centre for Cities will continue to work with cities, Whitehall and politicians do drive this initiative forward to support economic growth in city regions across the country.

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