40 recommendations on devolution most of which the government ducks

Government Response to CLG Select Committee Report: “Devolution: the next five years and beyond”

Many, many recommendations, few of which the government is taking on board.

Worth the read.

For example:

“Recommendations 15 / 16:
for devolution to take root and fulfil its aims, it needs to
involve and engage the people it is designed to benefit. There has been a consistent very significant lack of public consultation, engagement and communication at all stages of
the deal-making process. This is due to areas having limited time in the run up to the 4 September deadline. The Government drove the first wave of devolution deals through
at a rapid pace (considered in more detail in the next section) which meant there was no opportunity for engagement with residents, or for residents to have their say on the principle of devolution or the framework of the specific deal proposed in their area.

Despite this, we believe that local leaders could have communicated more effectively and extensively with their residents about the deal process, the contents of the deal and how it would affect them. It should, for example, have been clear to any citizen what their elected leaders were seeking to secure for the area in negotiating a devolution deal with the government.

In addition, deals involving complex negotiations between national and local politicians do not lend themselves to public engagement However, from now on, efforts should be made to engage, consult and communicate with the public at all stages of the process—in the preparation of proposals, their negotiation and following agreement.

Strategies to involve the public may include citizens’ juries, public meetings and, within the NHS and local government, staff engagement sessions. Once a deal is entrenched and its reforms have had the chance to take effect, the public should be consulted on their experience of its practical effects.

We think it is too late to engage the public only once a deal has been agreed. While it is reasonable that the actual negotiations are not open to the public, steps should be taken to inject more openness into the process by publishing on the relevant authorities’ websites:

• Devolution proposals and the Government’s counter-offers, within a reasonable time of them being made;
• An outline of what is being negotiated; and
• Drafts of the deal, and the text of the final deal.

The Government should also publish the criteria it uses to assess and agree proposals so local areas can refer to these when drawing up their devolution bid. A similar level of transparency should continue to be maintained once the deal has been agreed.”(Paragraph 56)
(Paragraph 53)

and here is the government response:

“The Government agrees that devolution needs to involve and engage the public, and would see continued value in engagement once a deal has been agreed. Deals are iterative (as evidenced by the progress made by Greater Manchester) and the Government’s expectation would be that elected representatives in the local area should seek the views of their constituents through whatever means they deem appropriate.

The Government would expect devolution deals, negotiated between locally elected leaders and central government, to reflect what people in the local area want and need. Additionally, when establishing, or amending, a Combined Authority there is a statutory requirement to hold a public consultation, while local authorities in deal areas also remain subject to the Best Value Duty with its associated requirements around consultation related to commissioning in particular.

The Government does not share the Committee’s view that there should be assessment criteria to agree deals. This is because there is no blueprint for devolution proposals; the only stipulation is that the governance arrangements should be commensurate with the powers being devolved. All devolution deals are bespoke and will vary depending on the asks from local areas.

All of the devolution deals agreed to date include clear commitments from Government and local areas on implementing, monitoring, evaluating and ensuring accountability, and the text of all agreed deals has been published online. The Government is committed to continuing to publish deals as more are agreed.”

Click to access CM9291-_Select_Comittee_Response.pdf_-_Print.pdf