Reform is essential in facing up to England’s economic and political challenges. Local government has, some places, risen to the occasion. But the system that exists in England is unsuitable for the roles it is now being asked to take on, roles unforeseen at the time of its creation. Devolution and implementation of local industrial strategies are advancing in city-region areas but have made almost no progress in the counties, hampered by the current structures. This report looks to offer an alternative.
ResPublica proposes a path to reform that leads to transformative devolution to the counties – ‘Devo 2.0’. The report argues that existing county council geographies are the essential building blocks. Through them, we can both reform the existing two-tier County/District system; and move to complete reorganisation in the form of single-tier unitary councils. The incentive to doing so should be a clear commitment to unlock the devolved powers that counties want and need, including their role in the wider industrial strategy. If realised, this could help to transform the UK’s economy, with closer partnerships between communities, as well as wider towns, cities and metro-areas. This could enable counties to bypass the complexity of existing ‘workarounds’ between different layers of local government. It could make acting to improve outcomes simpler and more effective. And, it could provide greater autonomy and self-determination for communities at the most local scale – helping them take back control.Read Full Report