Enabling legislation set out in the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill should allow for the formation of clusters of district councils which reflect and map Functional Economic Areas, the District Councils’ Network has urged.
The suggestion for the flexible and lowest level local transfer of powers is contained in the DCN’s submission to the independent consultation on better devolution – led by Lord Kerslake on behalf of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on reform, decentralisation and devolution.
Under the double devolution model, specific functions could be more effectively delivered among districts within a Functional Economic Area – for example housing, planning, regeneration, skills, health and social care, early intervention, welfare reform and the roll out of the Universal Credit programme.
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So while the DCN is supportive of Combined Authority models for certain areas, it is also making the case that English devolution should adopt a set of ‘governance principles’ rather than set models.
This would allow for alternative governance models, such as Joint Committees, to provide less formal but equally successful long-term devolution arrangements that best suit local circumstances.
The DCN submission also sets out key areas where the devolution of powers could boost local growth. In addition, the devolution submission makes the case for the financial independence of districts and explains how a sustainable funding system for local government could be set in train.
Areas for reform include business rates, council tax, localised fees and charges, infrastructure investment funding, the New Homes Bonus and HRA self-financing and social rent policy.