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ResPublica Responds to the New Report on Local Government Independence

30th January 2013

  • ResPublica

ResPublica's response to the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee highlights the importance of empowering local authorities

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee yesterday published their report, Prospects for codifying the relationship between central and local government, which detailed the findings of the Committee’s inquiry into the constitutional status of local government and its relationship with central government.

The report argues that the relationship between the two spheres of government needs to radically change if, as in line with the Government’s localism reforms, local authorities are to be truly empowered to meet future economic and social problems. England is currently the most centralised country in the Union, and it is somewhat odd that local authorities in England lack the freedoms enjoyed by their counterparts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The relationship between local and central government is also a key concern of ResPublica’s forthcoming project, which will explore how local authorities can spearhead future regional economic growth and community empowerment. In particular, ResPublica will examine how local authorities can take on the role of ‘civic brokers’ between businesses and communities – giving particular attention to the constitutional and finance raising powers of local government. The project will also look beyond purely local government solutions and explore radical solutions to incorporating civil society in service delivery and democratic participation.

The Committee similarly argues for greater tax and financing raising powers to be devolved to local authorities in order to kick-start regional economic growth. The Committee suggests that the relationship between central and local government could be laid out by a new Code of Relations.

The Political and Constitutional Reform Committee Chair, Graham Allen MP, said:

“Codifying the relationship between central and local government would pave the way for a radical new settlement for local government in England. The Committee’s draft code would clarify at what level of government power and accountability lie and provide a framework within which local councils would have the freedom to meet local needs and priorities.

The Government’s commitment to localism is laudable, and the city deals are a step in the right direction, but there is still much more we can do to set local government free. In the long term, I would like to see English local government retain a sizeable part of the income tax take for England, and have the ability to implement other revenue-raising schemes, with local consent.”

Graham Allen MP, said of ResPublica’s work:

“I welcome the part ResPublica is playing in the localism debate. The ideas of the Committee are similar to those advocated by ResPublica. In our report, we too believe that local government bodies be given a much greater say over local finances.”

ResPublica’s localism project builds on the ideas discussed by Graham Allen MP and Phillip Blond, ResPublica Director, in an article published last year in the Independent.

Over the coming months, ResPublica will establish a consortium of partners from local government and beyond who will feed in to our research in this area, and who would benefit from co-branding on publications and events. For further information about this project, please contact Adam Wildman, Research Manager, at adam.wildman@respublica.org.uk or 020 7222 6552.

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