Westminster Social Policy Forum

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The future for devolution in England - lessons learned, policy development, funding, infrastructure, economic recovery, and tackling regional inequalities

Morning, Wednesday, 8th September 2021


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will discuss the future for devolution in England, and supporting growth in left-behind regions - including economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.


It will be an opportunity to discuss key issues for:

  • the proposed Levelling Up White Paper, due to be published later this year, which sets out new policy interventions aimed at improving livelihoods and opportunity in all parts of the UK
  • the relaunched inquiry into the progress on devolution in England, by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee

We are pleased to be able to include keynote sessions with Rt Hon Lord Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 2010-15; Baroness Blake of Leeds, former leader, Leeds City Council; and Board Member, The Northern Powerhouse Partnership; and Nigel Wilcock, Executive Director, Institute of Economic Development (IED).


The conference also welcomes contributions from Dr Patricia Greer, Chief Executive, West of England Combined Authority; Jessie Hamshar, Strategy and Engagement Service Director, Cornwall Council; Jim Hubbard, Head of Regional Policy, CBI; Alan Reiss, Director of Strategy, Communications and Policing, West Yorkshire Combined Authority; Councillor Liam Robinson, Transport Portfolio Holder, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority; Laura Shoaf, Managing Director, Transport for West Midlands; and Jonathan Werran, Chief Executive, Localis.


Sessions in the agenda look at:

  • the future of regional devolution in England
  • learning from the experience of devolution to date, and how local decision-making has evolved as a response to the pandemic
  • next steps for delivering economic growth and regeneration across England, and priorities for the planned Levelling up White Paper
  • developing the infrastructure needed to support growth:
    • building on existing knowledge and partnership frameworks
    • linking with existing local services and building on the strengths of each area
  • policy priorities for driving economic growth across the UK and the Government’s levelling up agenda

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from MHCLG; the NIC; BEIS; Defra; DIT; Home Office; the Office for Product Safety and Standards; and the Welsh Government.


The agenda

  • Key lessons from devolution to date, and next steps for delivering economic growth and regeneration across England
  • The outlook for future devolution - priorities for ensuring balanced regional growth, and fostering stakeholder engagement and collaboration
  • Priorities for the planned Levelling up White Paper, the future of regional devolution in England, and how local decision making has evolved as a response to the pandemic
  • Developing the infrastructure needed to support growth, building on existing knowledge and partnership frameworks, linking with existing local services, and building regional strengths
  • Next steps for policy to drive economic growth across the UK and priorities for reducing regional economic inequalities

Key areas for discussion:
Learning key lessons from devolution to date:

  • next steps for delivering balanced economic growth and regeneration across England

Key issues for the planned Levelling Up White Paper:

  • stakeholder perspectives - priorities and thinking on its scope, timing, and delivery
  • engagement and collaboration - how best to foster cooperation between local communities, combined authorities, elected Metro Mayors, and national Government
  • learning key lessons from existing devolution deals - looking at best practice, prospects for future devolution, and what is needed going forward for:
    • developing a clear and defined purpose and scope
    • transparency of devolution negotiations
    • governance, decision making, and budgetary control
  • priorities for support - what more can government provide to ensure local and combined authorities have the capacity and skills to take on new responsibilities
  • COVID-19:
    • how local decision-making has evolved as a response to the pandemic
    • implications for the development and implementation of regional responses to public health and economic issues going forward
  • combined authority responsibilities:
    • whether combined authorities should have greater control over devolved policy areas, such as skills or housing
    • options for improving accountability for regional economic outcomes
  • assessing government support - such as the Levelling Up, Towns, and Future High Streets funds
    • impact on addressing regional inequalities
    • how effectively funds are reaching areas most in need
    • priorities for any future funding, including the planned UK Shared Prosperity Fund

Developing the infrastructure needed to support growth in the country’s recovery from COVID-19:

  • local and national infrastructure - priorities for:
    • regenerating local infrastructure
    • linking existing local services and plans with national infrastructure and strategies, such as the National Bus Strategy, and plans for an expansion of gigabit-capable broadband
  • developing regional expertise - and priorities for building on existing knowledge and partnership frameworks
  • ensuring effective delivery - whether more needs to be done to:
    • enable local government to efficiently deliver infrastructure projects locally, such as housing
    • engage administrations and stakeholders meaningfully in ongoing planning reform
  • building on regional strengths:
    • consolidating the strengths of each area and Local Industrial Strategies
    • ensuring local skills provision meets employer need
    • supporting green economic recovery
  • private investment and stimulating growth - priorities for:
    • attracting investment into English regions
    • supporting the development of unique, skills and resources driven competitive local economies

The Government’s levelling up agenda:

  • policy priorities for taking this forward and driving economic growth across the UK

Background to the discussion:

  • the Levelling Up White Paper - due to be published later this year, setting out new policy interventions aimed at improving livelihoods and opportunity in all parts of the UK
  • Levelling-up Devo: the role of national government in making a success of devolution in England:
    • the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Devolution finding barriers to devolution around what it sees as:
      • a lack of clarity on the purpose, process or scope of devolution
      • financial uncertainty hampering local innovation and service delivery
      • entrenched central government structures, attitudes and ways of working
    • with support from the LGA, calling for a new devolution settlement for English councils and communities with ‘the right funding and freedoms’
  • Progress on devolution in England - the relaunched inquiry from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee scrutinising the impact of recent devolution agreements, and if further devolution can boost local economies and public service provision
  • the Levelling Up Fund - the Government’s £4.8bn fund aimed at supporting its Levelling Up agenda
  • the Shared Prosperity Fund - due to launch in 2022, and aimed at replacing EU Structural funding and supporting levelling up across the UK, with:
    • an investment framework due to be set out in advance, informed by the  design of the UK Community Renewal Fund for 2021-22
    • the UK government expected to begin the investment phase and announce successful projects late July 2021
  • further government measures - aimed at regenerating high streets and towns, including the Towns Fund and the Future High Streets Fund
  • the National Infrastructure Strategy - alongside the launch of a new National Infrastructure Bank, chaired by Chris Grigg, aimed at supporting the delivery of the UK’s long-term priorities for infrastructure development

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the BEIS; Defra; Department for International Trade; Home Office; Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government; National Infrastructure Commission; Office of Product Safety and Standards and the Welsh Government.


Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from combined authorities, local authorities, LEPs, as well as representatives from the housing, construction, transport and manufacturing industries, business groups, trade associations, arts groups, law firms, skills groups, consultancies, environmental groups, charities and the third sector, universities, academics, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



Keynote Speakers

Rt Hon Lord Pickles

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 2010-15

Baroness Blake of Leeds

former leader, Leeds City Council; and Board Member, The Northern Powerhouse Partnership

Nigel Wilcock

Executive Director, Institute of Economic Development (IED)

Keynote Speakers

Nigel Wilcock

Executive Director, Institute of Economic Development (IED)

Rt Hon Lord Pickles

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government 2010-15

Baroness Blake of Leeds

former leader, Leeds City Council; and Board Member, The Northern Powerhouse Partnership

Chairs

Rt Hon Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top

Member, Public Services Committee, and former Minister of State for Local Government (1997-2001)

John Stevenson MP

Member, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee

Speakers

Alan Reiss

Director of Strategy, Communications and Policing, West Yorkshire Combined Authority

Jim Hubbard

Head of Regional Policy, CBI

Jessie Hamshar

Strategy and Engagement Service Director, Cornwall Council

Councillor Liam Robinson

Transport Portfolio Holder, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority

Laura Shoaf

Managing Director, Transport for West Midlands

Jonathan Werran

Chief Executive, Localis

Dr Patricia Greer

Chief Executive, West of England Combined Authority