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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Rural England and the promises of devolution

Before last year's election, a lot of promises were being made for 'rural devolution':

Back in January this year, the Rural Services Network questioned how the 'devolution deals' will help rural areas: 
Approaches adopted by large or metropolitan cities will not necessarily suit county areas.
How to make rural devolution work

In April, rural councillors were saying they were not convinced about devolution:
Plans for new elected mayors announced in the Budget by the government should be abandoned, Conservatives have said.
Local councillors and some MPs say mayors for three rural parts of England will add an expensive and unwanted extra tier of government.
Doubts cast over rural England elected mayor plans - BBC News

Last month, the question was asked by Tony Travers, director of LSE London: if local authorities in a highly centralised country like England get more power, “it begs the question, why don’t other areas get the same power and autonomy?”:
Devolution deals are best suited to cities and not enough has been done to make them work for rural and more dispersed communities.
Government's devolution model doesn't make sense for rural areas | Public Leaders Network | The Guardian

And rural businesses are worried about being left behind:
CLA Senior Rural Business Adviser and Economist Charles Trotman said: "There are more than 600,000 rural businesses in England and Wales, employing 3.4 million people and playing a vital role both in the wider economy and also in the vibrancy of rural communities.
"However, the current policies and models make it too easy for rural areas to be ignored. Government must make it much clearer how devolved authorities are accountable for their performance in unlocking growth in rural as well as urban areas."

Farming UK News - Lack of devolution deal co ordination puts rural growth opportunity at risk says CLA

This week, the Rural Services Network poses the same -unanswered - questions:
Will devolution really benefit rural areas?
As part of plans to rebalance the economy, Government is keen to devolve powers to regions. With regional devolution gathering pace – and deals signed in Manchester, Sheffield, Leeds – is this opening up greater opportunities for economic growth and regeneration and if so, where does rural fit? Jessica Sellick investigates.
Devolution for England was first proposed in 1912 by Winston Churchill (then MP for Dundee) as part of a debate on Home Rule for Ireland... 
In January 2016, the Communities and Local Government Select Committee published its inquiry into the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill and the approach being taken to pursuing devolution to cities and regions more generally. The Committee highlighted a lack of public consultation and engagement at all stages in the devolution process. The Committee also described devolution in practice as lacking rigour, “with no clear and measurable objectives and no efforts to inject openness and transparency into the deal negotiations”.
The Government considers the Cities and Local Government Devolution Act to provide a good basis for the devolution agenda to evolve; will rural England become a white space in this dialogue or will it shape the agenda?