Westminster Social Policy Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
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Devolution and growth deals in England - future rollout, local powers, and economic recovery and development in the wake of COVID-19

Morning, Tuesday, 24th November 2020

Online Conference

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

This conference focuses on the future for devolution in England, the potential for new regional growth deals, and the role of regional economies in supporting economic recovery following the pandemic.

Key areas for discussion include:

  • prospects for future devolution in England - and what can be learnt from existing devolution deals and the experience of city region mayoralties
  • the impact of devolution and local industrial strategies on economic growth and sustainability
  • priorities for renewing and enhancing local infrastructure to support economic growth and recovery

Delegates will also examine the significant immediate and long-term challenges for devolved regions introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Effective delivery of services - and what further support is needed to support local and combined authorities as mayors across the country warn that local authorities are at risk of insolvency, and potentially devastating consequences for communities, unless government takes immediate action
  • The future role of combined authorities and metro mayors in developing and implementing regional responses to crises:
    • as the Government outlines plans to control infection outbreaks at a more localised level as part of its COVID-19 recovery strategy
    • with calls from the mayors of Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester for more local information about regional infection rates, reviews of potential easing of the lockdown depending on local virus reproduction rates, a local furlough system to support local lockdowns and COBRA membership to be widened to include regional Mayors
  • Supporting the economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic, and adapting to changes in behaviour and service delivery, with:

Looking beyond the COVID-19 crisis - further discussion in detail:

The Devolution White Paper

  • the outlook for devolution deals across England at different stages of development
  • what can be learnt from existing devolution deals
  • encouraging collaboration between local authorities and support local economies
  • priorities for investment, budgetary control and decision-making powers
  • whether more is needed to support local responses to crises and to bring local leaders into national response planning

Coordination and collaboration

  • how local communities have tailored public health economic recovery strategies during the pandemic
  • linking further devolution with the third wave of Local Industrial Strategies
  • promoting collaboration between local authority and business leaders

Maximising economic impact

Looking particularly at how devolution and growth deals can work to support the delivery of services - and strategies for:

  • the role of regional economies in supporting national recovery from the pandemic
  • attracting investment into English regions
  • utilising the potential of the Shared Prosperity Fund
  • ensuring local skills provision meets employer need
  • lifting productivity levels and responding to changes in working patterns and processes

Local infrastructure 

How it can be enhanced, in the context of a range of policies detailed in the Budget including:

  • the five-year transport plans for combined authorities beginning in 2022-2023
  • the National Bus Strategy expected later this year
  • major investment into improving gigabit-capable broadband connections in areas across the UK
  • what infrastructure is required to support changes in ways of working and economic behaviour following the pandemic

Relevant developments:

Policy and new deals

  • The planned English Devolution White Paper - expected to lay out Government’s strategy for more devolution deals, metro mayors and devolved powers across the country
  • The Prime Minister’s ‘New Deal for Britain’, setting out a £5bn national infrastructure spending plan - including £900m to fund local growth projects in England
  • South Yorkshire’s devolution deal being set for approval along with receiving a £30m investment package
  • West Yorkshire councils and the Combined Authority securing a devolution deal providing local control over £1.8bn worth of funding and a directly-elected mayor for West Yorkshire from May 2021
  • York and North Yorkshire taking the first steps towards securing a potential devolution deal for the area
  • Issues raised in the relaunched Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee Progress of Devolution in England inquiry - formed to analyse the results so far, the ‘region by region’ implementation strategy, and how the benefits of devolution can be maximised moving forward


  • The first gateway review for Mayors’ investment funds as well as 8 mayoral elections expected in 2021
  • The UK Shared Prosperity Fund, the replacement for EU Structural Funding, and the forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy
  • The impact of the now delayed government Comprehensive Spending Review - due to outline departmental spending plans for the next three years
  • The recent government announcement of further support for local authorities as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic


  • New transport plans for mayoral authorities announced in the Budget - including £4.2bn for urban transport over five years, once mayors and government agree on individual delivery plans
  • The Transport Secretary announcing £589m worth of investment will be provided to kickstart the Transpennine main line between Leeds, Huddersfield and Manchester, along with establishing a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council to give northern leaders a ‘direct line’ to ministers

The agenda:

  • Assessing the current landscape for devolution in England - with Professor Joyce Liddle, Director, Research and Knowledge Exchange, Newcastle Business School
  • Case study: responding to COVID-19 and supporting local economic recovery - with Tim Bowles, Mayor, West of England Combined Authority
  • Priorities for future devolution in England - collaboration, greater budgetary control, and empowering local approaches as part of the recovery from COVID-19 and in future crises
  • Devolution as a driver of regional development - attracting investment, supporting economic recovery, implementing local industrial strategies, and enhancing local infrastructure
  • The policy outlook for devolution and growth deals across England - with Ed Wagstaff, Deputy Director, Cities and Local Growth Unit

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

It is particularly the case with this conference. Places have been reserved by officials from BEIS; the Cities and Local Growth Unit; HM Treasury; MHCLG; HM Revenue & Customs; the National Audit Office; the Office of Government Property; the Cabinet Office; DCMS; Defra; the Department for Education; the Department for International Trade; the DWP and the Welsh Government.

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

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording 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

Ed Wagstaff

Deputy Director, Cities and Local Growth Unit

Tim Bowles

Mayor, West of England Combined Authority

Professor Joyce Liddle

Director, Research and Knowledge Exchange, Newcastle Business School


Lord Soley

Vice Chair, Devolution All-Party Parliamentary Group

Rt Hon the Lord Paul Tyler

Vice Chair, Devolution All-Party Parliamentary Group


Laura Shoaf

Managing Director, Transport for West Midlands

Cllr Sean Fielding

Leader, Oldham Council

Sean Hanson

Chief Executive, Local Partnerships

Melanie Corcoran

Director, Delivery, West Yorkshire Combined Authority

Jessie Hamshar

Director, Strategy and Engagement, Cornwall Council

Simon Edwards

Director, County Councils Network

Deborah Fraser

Director, Regions, Confederation of British Industry

Dean Cook

Head of Regional Engagement, Innovate UK

James Stevens

Director, Cities, Home Builders Federation