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LGA - Levelling Up: Devolve powers and cut costly bids to realise ambitions, councils say

Costly competitions between councils vying for vital funding pots should be replaced to help realise the Government’s levelling up agenda, according to a new report.

The Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, has published its Levelling Up Locally Inquiry report, a culmination of a year-long series of roundtables gathering evidence from independent experts about how best to bridge the gap between national ambitions and the priorities of local leaders and communities.

Published ahead of the Spring Budget and 12 months on from the publication of the Levelling Up white paper, the report highlights the need for a step change in devolution, with greater powers and resources to drive prosperity transferred to a local level and an end to Whitehall funding competitions.

As the economy starts to show tentative signs of recovery, the inquiry says councils and combined authorities’ role in promoting economic growth and prosperity should be formally recognised, including being able to fairly keep and reinvest the proceeds of local growth according to local need.

Single budgets for all places that want them should also be rolled out under the leadership of local government, which would lead to improved joined-up public services, while also building on existing campaigns to develop a talent pipeline of future leaders that better reflect the diversity of need which people and places face.

Local and community leaders should also be given a formal role in ensuring people’s experiences are a key part of policy design, working with diverse and underrepresented groups to shape the levelling up missions and help accelerate delivery across government, the inquiry concludes. 

It comes as the current competitive bid process has seen some councils spend hundreds of thousands of pounds on preparing detailed bids to the Levelling Up Fund, only to find out they were unsuccessful and in some cases, only realise afterwards they were not even eligible to apply.

The LGA says that any subsequent rounds of the Levelling Up Fund should be allocated based on evidence of need, rather than bids between areas.

Cllr Kevin Bentley, Chairman of the LGA’s People and Places Board, said: 

“Levelling up should be locally led and as our report highlights, we need a step change in devolution if we are to bridge the gap between the Government’s priorities and what needs to happen on the ground in our communities.

“Extra investment into our local areas has the potential to transform people’s lives and livelihoods and this needs to be accompanied by greater powers for councils, with the support of national and local partners, without needing to negotiate funding competitions.”

Mayor Marvin Rees, Chair of the LGA’s City Regions Board, said: 

“Councils with limited resources are having to make difficult decisions on whether to risk time and money to make bids for additional funding, while facing increasing cost pressures.

“The remaining £1 billion of the Levelling Up Fund should be allocated on the basis of robust evidence of where crucial investment needs to land, rather than through costly competitive bids between areas for funds they may not get."

Notes to Editors

Levelling Up Locally inquiry report

Original article link: https://www.local.gov.uk/about/news/levelling-devolve-powers-and-cut-costly-bids-realise-ambitions-councils-say

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