National Audit Office Press Releases
|Printable version||E-mail this to a friend|
English devolution deals
Devolution deals to devolve power from central government to local areas in England offer opportunities to stimulate economic growth and reform public services for local users, but the arrangements are untested and government could do more to provide confidence that these deals will achieve the benefits intended, according to the National Audit Office.
Over the last 18 months, 10 devolution deals have been agreed, outlining the transfer of powers, funding and accountability for policies and functions previously undertaken by central government, in Greater Manchester, Cornwall, Sheffield City Region; the North East; Tees Valley; Liverpool City Region; the West Midlands, East Anglia; Greater Lincolnshire; and the West of England. They are the latest in a range of initiatives and programmes designed to support localism and decentralisation.
HM Treasury and the Cities and Local Growth Unit are responsible for managing the negotiation, agreement and implementation of devolution deals on behalf of central government as a whole. All of the deals include an agreement on devolved responsibility for substantial aspects of transport, business support and further education. Other policy areas included in some of the deals are housing and planning, employment support and health and social care.
The government has announced new additional investment funding of £246.5 million a year alongside the devolution deals announced so far. Over time, the government intends to combine this funding with a number of other funding streams into a ‘single pot’ to enable more local control over investment decisions, and has announced £2.86 billion of initial allocations over 5 years for the first 6 mayoral devolution deals.
Central government’s management approach to brokering devolution deals is designed to support its policy of localism. The government considers that devolution proposals should be led by local areas, and that central government’s role should be to respond to these proposals. As a result, the government has decided not to set out a clear statement of what it is trying to achieve through devolution deals.
According to the NAO, however, there are significant accountability implications arising from the deals which central government and local areas will need to develop and clarify. These include the details of how and when powers will be transferred to mayors and how they will be balanced against national parliamentary accountability. The deals agreed so far involve increasingly complex administrative and governance configurations.
And as devolution deals are new and experimental, good management and accountability both depend on appropriate and proportionate measures to understand their impact.
To improve the chances of success, and provide local areas and the public with greater clarity over the progression of devolution deals, central government should clarify the core purposes of devolution deals as well as who will be responsible and accountable for devolved services and functions, and should ensure it identifies and takes account of risks to devolution deals that arise from ongoing challenges to the financial sustainability of local public services.
Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said: “Despite several iterations of deals, the government’s approach to English devolution still has an air of charting undiscovered territory. It is in explorer mode, drawing the map as it goes along. Some of the opportunities and obstacles are becoming clearer, but we still do not have a clear view of the landscape or, crucially, an idea of the destination. Devolution deals provide important opportunities to reform public services. As with any experiment, some elements will work better than others. As we have said before, it is in the interests of both local areas and the government to know which programmes have the biggest impact for the money invested. Localism is not a reason for failure to learn from experiences or to spread best practice.
Full report: English devolution deals
Notes for Editors
10 Devolution deals agreed to date
34 Devolution proposals received from local areas in England by September 2015
£246.5m Additional investment funding per year, as part of devolution deals (£7.4bn over 30 years)
16.1 million People living in areas subject to devolution deals
9 New mayors of combined authorities to be elected in 2017
155 Staff in the Cities and Local Growth Unit
7 HM Treasury staff in their central team supporting devolution deals, supported by its departmental spending teams and other specialists
25% Real-terms reduction in local authorities’ income between 2010-11 and 2015-16, taking account of both central government funding and council tax, as estimated in November 2014
8% Real-terms reduction in local authorities’ income from 2015-16 to 2019-20, taking account of both central government funding and council tax, based on current estimates
- Press notices and reports are available from the date of publication on the NAO website. Hard copies can be obtained by using the relevant links on our website.
- The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending for Parliament and is independent of government. The Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), Sir Amyas Morse KCB, is an Officer of the House of Commons and leads the NAO, which employs some 810 people. The C&AG certifies the accounts of all government departments and many other public sector bodies. He has statutory authority to examine and report to Parliament on whether departments and the bodies they fund have used their resources efficiently, effectively, and with economy.
- Our studies evaluate the value for money of public spending, nationally and locally. Our recommendations and reports on good practice help government improve public services, and our work led to audited savings of £1.15 billion in 2014.
Direct line: 020 7798 7066 Mobile: 07917 555388 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Latest News from
National Audit Office Press Releases
Investigation into HMRC’s contract with Concentrix17/01/2017 12:10:00
HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC’s) contract with Synnex-Concentrix UK Ltd was terminated in November 2016. The contract was designed to add capacity to HMRC’s programme of interventions to prevent or detect error and fraud in personal tax credits awards. HMRC estimated that the contract would save £1 billion over its three year life time and an estimated £193 million, excluding Concentrix’s costs, had been saved by the time of contract termination.
National Citizen Service13/01/2017 09:15:00
Having shown that the concept of a national citizen service has something to offer young people, to demonstrate value for money the OCS and the Trust now need to show they can grow NCS as intended and run it at a more affordable cost to the taxpayer.
Improving patient access to general practice12/01/2017 11:15:00
Challenging objectives for improving access to general practice have been set by the Department and NHS England, but a more coordinated approach and stronger incentives are needed.
Managing the HMRC Estate10/01/2017 11:15:00
By reducing the number of its offices and moving to a regional centre model HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) hopes to significantly reduce its running costs and modernise the way it works. HMRC’s original plan has proved unrealistic and is now reconsidering the scope and timing of the programme. Any changes will need to be carefully managed to avoid diminishing the long term value of the strategy.
The Comptroller and Auditor General’s Report on the Department for Education’s financial statements 2015-1621/12/2016 13:15:00
The Comptroller and Auditor General has provided an adverse opinion on the truth and fairness of the Department for Education’s group financial statements 2015-16. He has also qualified his regularity opinion because the Department has exceeded two of its expenditure limits authorised by Parliament.