This article was originally published in The MJ, 23 September 2020. 'Five ways to be ahead of the curve' Ruth Morgan and Sean Anstee.
The Devolution and Local Recovery White Paper is due imminently. However, it is expected to describe the roadmap for local government reform and the conditions to be met for more devolution of power and several new mayoral combined authorities.
Anticipation of the White Paper and speculation about its content is fuelling the debate on local government reform. This is especially true in county areas. The County Councils Network has published a study which concludes that local government would be better served by single county unitary authorities for the county footprints. That comes as no surprise. But the local government sector is split. Some argue that the advantages of dealing with fewer, streamlined authorities makes for faster decision making.
Others say democracy is best served locally, not remotely. Strategic services such as children’s social care may be administered at county hall but in practice today are delivered in localities and that a large bureaucracy is slowing down any improvements.
The anticipation and expectation of devolution, and the dangling of some carrots about funding and extra mayors mean the sector is raged in a debate about structure, numbers of councillors and a few extra powers.