House of Lords debate, Publication of the government white paper on levelling up, November 2021

We ask that the White Paper is utilised as an opportunity to reset the relationship between national and local government and put councils at the heart of delivering the Government’s ambitious programme to improve opportunities in all parts of the country.


Key messages

  • Local government has played a vital role in leading the response to COVID-19. Throughout this period, councils have delivered at speed, working in partnership with national government to support communities.
  • The Government confirmed its intention in the Spending Review to introduce a Levelling Up White Paper by the end of the year, it is likely this will be before Christmas. We ask that the White Paper is utilised as an opportunity to reset the relationship between national and local government and put councils at the heart of delivering the Government’s ambitious programme to improve opportunities in all parts of the country.
  • The LGA would welcome further steps towards defragmenting all local funding arrangements to help maximise the strength of councils’ local leadership which was demonstrated so strongly during the pandemic. Previous LGA research found that £23 billion of public money was spent on growth, regeneration and skills, fragmented across 70 different national funding streams and managed by 22 government departments and agencies.
  • The LGA asks that the Government considers the findings of the Devolution APPG inquiry into ‘Levelling Up Devo’. The APPG recommends that Government should work with local government to set out a National Devolution Baseline for England, including a list of new powers available to every council, as well as further powers which are available subject to clear eligibility requirements.
  • We welcome the announcement of the Community Renewal Fund the pilots for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, and the pivotal role given to local government in the programmes.  The government must now work with local government and coproduce the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. This is an opportunity to learn from the pilot scheme and develop a multiannual UKSPF that is driven by local need rather than national programmes and that removes the silos and bureaucracy of the European programme it is replacing.
  • Good jobs and career opportunities where people live is central to the Government’s levelling up ambitions. The route to achieving this is through greater devolution, which would empower local leaders to create local, integrated skills and employment offers tailored to the needs of local economies and residents. We will be working with government to ensure that the changes put forward in the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill make use of local government’s expertise to deliver better outcomes. 
  • The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill should be used as an opportunity to tackle our fragmented employment and skills system, with a greater role for councils and employers to help create jobs and training opportunities in their local communities.

Levelling Up White Paper

  • The Government announced its intention in the Queen’s Speech to introduce a Levelling Up White Paper later this year. We understand this will supersede the planned Devolution White Paper. We expect it before Christmas.
  • Our perspective is that building back better means building back local. The Levelling Up White Paper presents an opportunity to reset the relationship between national and local government and put councils at the heart of delivering the Government’s ambitious programme to improve opportunities in all parts of the country. Councils have a critical role to play, and are willing and able to deliver this agenda, it is important that they are empowered to do so.
  • The White Paper will build on actions the Government is already taking to level up across the UK and will set out “bold new policy interventions to improve livelihoods and opportunities in all parts of the UK.” It looks to improve living standards, grow the private sector, improve health, education and policing, strengthen communities and local leadership and restore pride in place.  
  • The LGA supports the findings of the Devolution APPG inquiry into ‘Levelling Up Devo’, Among the APPG’s recommendations are that the Government should work with local government to set out a National Devolution Baseline for England, including a list of new powers available to every council, without the need to negotiate a devolution deal, as well as further powers which are available subject to clear eligibility requirements. Devolution from Whitehall to councils should be by default and at the heart of the national government policy. 
  • An English devolution taskforce should be established to enable discussion between national and local government on progress with devolution to councils. To ensure a co-produced approach to devolution, it should be led by Number 10 and jointly chaired by the responsible Cabinet Minister and a Council Leader. 
  • The Government should build on the approach to future growth funding signalled at the recent Budget and continue to move away from a pattern of piecemeal, fragmented and short-term interventions. We need to move towards a localist settlement that gives councils the powers and resources to drive green and inclusive growth that meets the needs of their communities.  

Contact

Jonah Munn, Public Affairs and Campaigns Adviser

[email protected]