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LGA - United Kingdom council leaders united on devolution

Councils in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have come together to call for an urgent meeting with government to thrash out a deal on devolution to communities in the United Kingdom.

In a letter recently to William Hague, Chair of the Cabinet Committee looking at devolved powers, the local government associations of the four countries of the United Kingdom, which represent councils of all political parties across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, have thrown down the gauntlet to government to ‘take a bold step towards a new system of government' which would move ‘power to the local level' across all four nations.

The letter is also being sent to the Smith Commission, which is looking at devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament.

The letter argues that the referendum on independence for Scotland has ‘shown that public trust in the old ways of central control has been shattered beyond repair' and ‘too many decisions that affect local communities are centralised in Westminster, Holyrood, Cardiff Bay and Stormont'. This ‘expensive, centralised approach' leads to governments trying to ‘second guess what is best for localities,' it says.

Local government leaders stress that the Cabinet Committee examining devolved powers has a ‘unique opportunity to refresh local democracy and empower local communities right across our nation'. They warn that the debate about devolving powers to national parliaments ‘skews the discussion' and misses the core issue that ‘national parties and local communities in every part of our nation have signalled a desire for a revival of our local democratic systems'. 

As the elected voice of communities across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, they are now urgently calling for a meeting with government ‘to discuss a revival of local democracy in the United Kingdom' that would see "real momentum behind the devolution of powers" beyond national parliaments.

"Any new settlement which ignores the re-awaking of local identity in the UK is likely to be unsustainable," they say.

The letter calls on government to urgently address three key principles in the devolution debate by:

• Establishing a principle of subsidiarity, which would ensure that power is transferred to the level of government closest to the people. 

• Securing and enhancing the legal position of local government. This would mean a defined set of powers and responsibilities which set out what local government can support at the local level so that public services can be designed around local need.

• Providing greater fiscal autonomy for local government. The current centralised system of public finance is inefficient and stymies economic growth. Greater responsibility for funding at a local level would improve public services and ensure that local residents and business see how their money is used.

The letter is signed by Cllr David Sparks, Chair of the Local Government Association, Cllr David O'Neill, President of Convention Of Scottish Local Authorities, Cllr Bob Wellington, Leader of Welsh Local Government Association, Cllr Dermot Curran, President, Northern Ireland Local Government Association.

Notes to editors

1. A copy of the letter is available on request

2. The Local Government Association (in England) is also calling for an urgent Constitutional Convention on the future of devolution in England, to debate and agree a fair devolution settlement across the UK.

Contact

Cherie Willers, Deputy Head of News and Internal Communications
Local Government Association
Telephone: 020 7664 3120
Email: cherie.willers@local.gov.uk
Media Office (for out-of-hours contact): 020 7664 3333
Local Government House, Smith Square, London SW1P 3HZ

www.local.gov.uk

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