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Solace blog

20th November 2015

Devolution: Challenging Change

Devolution was the theme of the Solace East and West Midlands Regional Seminar Devolution: Challenging Change that took place on 12 November.

There has been much debate over recent months on the devolution journey. This has tended to focus on the size and scope of the emerging devolution deals if such deals amount to genuine devolution, and whether they are a distraction from the CSR and the changes that will flow from it (see last week’s Solace Blog here).

At the seminar, Mark Stocks (Grant Thornton) outlined the key findings of the Making Devolution Work – a practical guide for local leaders. Places such as Greater Manchester and Sheffield City Region have already negotiated deals, securing the devolution of significant powers and budgets in return for adopting a directly-elected mayor and combined authority model. The key message was that the devolution agenda will be iterative and evolve. And indeed, in the week that followed it has, with further devolution deals that include billions of pounds investment announced for
the West Midlands and the Liverpool City Region.

The devo-deals will reshape how services are funded and delivered over the life of this parliament. This is particularly the case for transportation, where additional funding and powers have been secured to deliver the connectivity that will boost productivity and growth, enabling local people to access the skills and jobs created. Devolving responsibility for local transport budgets and franchised bus services will enable better and faster decision-making in line with the needs of local people. This builds on the significant funding and powers Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs)
secured via the City Deals and Growth Deals.

There is clear energy (more on this later) in the sector with local authorities and LEPs working together across council and LEP boundaries. It will be interesting to see how this deal-making process translates to other policy areas and non-metro geographies. However, they have provided a mechanism and collaborative mindset that will enable local places to prosper.

Dr. Jonathan Carr-West (LGIU) suggested that future deals could focus on the social care system. One example would be addressing the challenges posed by an ‘aging population’ – by 2071 there will be one million people in the UK over 100 years old, compared to 100,000 today. To address these challenges, we will need to overcome what was termed the ‘innovation ghetto’ – different models of public service are required, for which the deal-making approach is being readily applied.

Claire Chidley (Solace Associate) applied Einstein’s theory of relativity to explain how leaders can energise their staff and build resilience. “Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.” While Einstein may have never made this often attributed statement, his theory of relativity, encapsulated in the E=MC equation, was revolutionary.

Claire applied Einstein’s E=MC to explain how leaders can energise employees, in the field of leadership the famous equation translates to Energy = Motivation x Commitment. Claire concluded by drawing on Dr. Who, leaders need to become time lords through enabling themselves and their organisations to regenerate.

This ‘time lord’ ability will be especially valuable as the sector continues to evolve in the light of devo deals, fiscal restraint, and legislative change.

By Chloe Taylor, Hon Secretary and Treasurer of Solace West Midlands Branch and Transportation Programmes and Partnerships Manager, Birmingham City Council