Devolution and public service reform


Devolution and public sector reform means putting districts at the heart of devolution and the transformation of public service delivery, delivering those services that matter to residents the most.

As the prospect of devolution across the country becomes ever more real, districts are playing a pivotal role in the evolving local government landscape.

Working with central government, our partners and our communities, districts will develop solutions in our priority areas that create a more innovative, sustainable, independent and effective public sector, enhancing national prosperity and improving the lives of each and every one of our citizens and communities.

District Councils have a proven track record in devising innovative solutions to transform public services- delivering more for less.

The 2015 report ‘Building better collaboration: Improving collaborative behaviours in local government’ published by the University of Birmingham’s Inlogov centre showcased some of the innovative, district-led work, that has made services work better for residents. The report highlighted the leading role district councils are taking to ensure devolution improves services and outcomes for people and places through better collaboration.

And with devolution deals being developed and agreed across the country, the district appetite for increased freedoms and devolved powers is clear. Districts are working hard with government, alongside their county and LEP partners to develop new models for devolved delivery that will boost growth and transform public service delivery.

The District Councils Network wants to ensure that districts remain key partners in devolution discussions, deals and delivery. In particular, there are a number of key principles the DCN wants to see as part of the development of a more devolved local government system, namely:

  • Local solutions- there should be no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to devolution models and governance arrangements- it should be for local areas to decide what best meets the need of their locality. Devolution models should reflect functional economic areas – which make sense to local areas.
  • Double Devolution/Subsidiarity- Devolved arrangements should be firmly rooted in the principle of subsidiarity so that the right decisions on delivery are made at the right level. Some functions, such as strategic transport and blue light services, benefit from ‘regional’ scale whereas functions such as planning, housing delivery and economic development work most effectively when delivered from within functional economic areas, usually clusters of districts.
  • Finance must follow function- local areas need increased financial freedoms and flexibilities to ensure the benefits of devolution and growth can be realised. This will enable them to become more locally self-sufficient and support the more innovative, creative and efficient use of public resources.

For more information, contact:


Government agrees to protect district council functions

Levelling Up Bill: Government agrees to protect district council functions The District Councils’ Network has welcomed Michael Gove’s move to end the risk that district council services could be taken away from them without local consent. The Levelling Up Secretary...
Read More

‘Every community and every individual will feel poorer’ – DCN responds to Autumn Statement

DCN responds to Autumn Statement: ‘Every community and every individual will feel poorer’   District councils have little alternative but to scale back universal services which matter to all local residents after the chancellor signalled a real-terms fall in their...
Read More

Empowered councils can deliver net zero and clean growth

Empowered councils can deliver net zero and clean growth Local government should be empowered to independently fund clean growth projects and lead the drive to hit net zero in local communities, a report from Localis, co-commissioned by DCN, today urges....
Read More

Hunt warned: further cuts will weaken shire communities

Hunt warned: further cuts will weaken shire communities District council leaders say they will have no option but to cut hugely valuable local services which will diminish towns and communities across England should further cuts be imposed upon them. They...
Read More

Four-fifths of councils running out of accommodation for homeless people

Councils are running out of temporary accommodation in which to house growing numbers of people who are becoming homeless, exclusive research reveals. The District Councils’ Network insight also reveals how the cost-of-living crisis has spurred a huge increase in demand...
Read More