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

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

This conference is focussing on priorities for devolution in England and the way forward for policy.

The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials due to attend from HM Treasury; the Cabinet Office; MHCLG; the Cities and Local Growth Unit; BEIS; DCMS; DfE; DfT; DWP; HM Revenue & Customs; the NAO; the CPS; Defra; DIT; and the Welsh Government.

The discussion at a glance:

  • economic growth and sustainability - assessing the impact of devolution and local industrial strategies
  • infrastructure, recovery and growth - priorities for renewing and enhancing infrastructure to support local economies
  • the policy agenda - priorities for moving forward devolution in England and the future shape, scope and timing of policy
  • progress - looking at latest developments what can be learnt from existing devolution deals and the experience of city region mayoralties
  • COVID-19 - next steps for dealing with the significant immediate and long-term challenges posed for devolved regions by the pandemic, and the impact on the  development of policy

The agenda:

  • Assessing the current landscape for devolution in England
  • Case study: responding to COVID-19 and supporting local economic recovery
  • 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

A scan of relevant developments:

  • COVID-19 - powers and levels of autonomy for England’s local authorities brought into sharper focus with introduction of more localised control of infection outbreaks alongside disagreements on central government funding and individual local approaches, with the PM overriding local leaders in Manchester on moving to high Tier status, and agreement with other jurisdictions
  • the Devolution White Paper - the Government’s strategy for more devolution deals, metro mayors and devolved powers across the country, with questions about its timing and scope
  • A New Deal for Britain - the Prime Minister’s £5bn national infrastructure spending plan - including £900m to fund local growth projects in England
  • recent new devolution deals - for South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, and with steps being taken for York and North Yorkshire
  • Brexit and devolution - the Internal Market Bill which includes plans to redistribute powers in a range of policy areas previously exercised at an EU level
  • funding - The UK Shared Prosperity Fund, due to replace EU Structural Funding
  • Progress on devolution in England - the relaunched Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry analysing results so far, implementation strategies, and how the benefits of devolution can be maximised moving forward
  • reviews and elections - the first gateway review for mayors’ investment funds as well as eight mayoral elections expected in 2021
  • infrastructure - the forthcoming National Infrastructure Strategy, new transport plans for mayoral authorities announced in the Budget, as well as development of the Transpennine main line and a new Northern Transport Acceleration Council

The discussion in detail:

  • the Devolution White Paper:
    • the outlook - priorities, timing and scope, and examining progress and what can be learned from devolution deals across England at different stages of development
    • collaboration - strategies, models and incentives for local authorities working together to support local economies
    • shaping future devolution deals - priorities for investment, and options for budgetary control and decision-making powers
    • local involvement in national responses - what more might be needed to support local responses to crises and to bring local leaders into national response planning
  • coordination and collaboration:
    • tailored approaches - how local communities have adapted public health and economic recovery strategies to local needs
    • Local Industrial Strategies - linking further devolution with the third wave of LIS, and promoting collaboration between local authority and business leaders
  • maximising economic impact:
    • delivery of services - strategies for making the most of support provided through devolution and growth deals
    • recovery - the role of regional economies in supporting national economic resurgence from the pandemic
    • finance - attracting investment into English regions and utilising the potential of the Shared Prosperity Fund
    • the workforce - ensuring local skills provision meets employer need and lifting productivity levels and responding to changes in working patterns and processes
  • local infrastructure: 
    • priorities and policy support - enhancing local infrastructure in the context of a range of government plans for regeneration and economic recovery
    • transport - the five-year plans for combined authorities, the National Bus Strategy expected later this year, and prospects for reversal to service cuts
    • digital - with major investment into improving gigabit-capable broadband connections in areas across the UK
    • work and the new normal - what infrastructure is required to support changes in ways of working and economic behaviour following the pandemic
  • the COVID-19 crisis - moving forward:
    • continued effective delivery of services - what immediate support do local and combined authorities need, as mayors across the country warn of risk of insolvency
    • supporting economic recovery - moving forward from the pandemic, and adapting to changes in behaviour and service delivery
    • future crisis situations and role of combined authorities and metro mayors - what the experience of COVID-19 means for the development and implementation of regional responses going forward

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by parliamentary pass-holders from the House of Commons, and officials from BEIS; the Cities and Local Growth Unit; HM Treasury; MHCLG; the Cabinet Office; HM Revenue & Customs; the National Audit Office; the Office of Government Property; the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation; the Crown Prosecution Service; DCMS; Defra; the Department for Education; the Department for International Trade; the Department for Transport; the DWP; the Office for 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 local authorities, businesses and their advisors, investors and analysts, legal experts, infrastructure providers, university and research stakeholders, representatives of citizen groups and campaigning organisations, academics and commentators, and 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 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

Professor Joyce Liddle

Director, Research and Knowledge Exchange, Newcastle Business School

Tim Bowles

Mayor, West of England Combined Authority

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

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