Devolve by default
Think tank: Reform
Author(s): Dr Simon Kaye; Rachael Powell
January 3, 2024
This report from UK think tank Reform sets out a new framework for devolution decisions and the assessment of local systems.
At present, a great deal of Whitehall’s time and resources are absorbed by unnecessary centralisation: micromanagement of purely local affairs, management of bid-in pots for local actors, and the development of policy which would be better handled differently from place to place.
To change this, a new approach to devolution will be required. This paper presents an analysis of the current barriers to effective devolution, identifying four ‘gaps’ between Whitehall’s expectations and its perception of local systems, which together prevent useful decentralisation: Capacity Gap, Capability Gap, Accountability Gap and Culture Gap.
In response to these ‘gaps’, the report sets out a new framework for devolution decisions and the assessment of local systems, alongside a range of recommendations. By enhancing the capabilities of local governments and promoting a devolution-friendly environment within Whitehall, policymakers can embrace the concept of ‘devolving by default’ as a fundamental principle for future governance reforms.