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Solace blog

25th September 2015

Transforming Places through Devolution

No two places are the same.

Whitehall has not always been good at recognising this, but over the last five years we have witnessed a profound change in the way we approach policy in this country, with decentralisation bringing power closer to local communities, promoting sustainable and balanced growth, and giving people a stronger say in the future of the places where they live.

This is a top government priority, and my unit – the Cities and Local Growth Unit – has been specifically set up to drive this forward. Drawn together from a number of government departments, our job is to break down the old Whitehall silos, and to make the case for the transfer of powers to local areas.

This is not new thinking. In the last five years, we achieved an enormous amount: from the Localism Act in 2011 and the 28 City Deals agreed from 2012 onwards, there has been a clear and consistent push away from the old model of central control towards places deciding how policies such as skills, transport, and housing should work locally.

The government’s endorsement of Lord Heseltine’s ‘No Stone Unturned’ report in 2013 paved the way for this radical approach to unleashing the economic potential of the whole country. We have since seen the creation of a £12bn Local Growth Fund, with 39 Growth Deals breathing life into the Strategic Economic Plans of Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The recent examples of the Greater Manchester and Cornwall Devolution Deals show the scale of what we can achieve when ambitious plans are backed up by strong governance, accountability and a willingness to share resources and risks. These bespoke deals recognise the circumstances and strengths of each area; deals are not a ‘one size fits all’ from Whitehall.

The 38 proposals we have received marks the beginning and not the end of the process, with negotiations each proceeding at different rates.

My unit will work with all places to deliver successful devolution deals across the country.

By Tom Walker, Director of Cities & Local Growth, Department for Business, Innovation, and Skills