Devolution and levelling-up: a single tier mayoral style system

“Levelling up requires coherent local institutions: strip back layers of local government and replace them with a single-tier system.”

“Government plans will be a waste of money on ‘unnecessary bureaucracy’, which would be better spent on going directly to areas that need it the most.”

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In the autumn, there were rumblings from central government about changing local government, but “Downing Street denied that they wanted to abolish two-thirds of authorities by replacing district councils with unitary authorities, and insisted change would happen only with local consent.”

Last week a key ‘levelling up’ document was leaked – which seemed to look to abolishing two-thirds of authorities by replacing district councils with unitary authorities:

Exclusive: Draft levelling up white paper, seen by ‘The Independent’, reveals key details of government’s flagship policy

Ministers plan sweeping changes to local government as part of levelling up agenda, leaked paper reveals | independent.co.uk

Here’s more:

The document – marked “Official Sensitive” – states the government is setting out a “new devolution framework for England” based on a model of a directly elected leader “over a well-defined economic geography”. The ambition is to strip back layers of local government and replace them with a single-tier system, as in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, but the government is already braced for a backlash to the plans, according to one senior official. “Levelling up requires coherent local institutions,” the document reads. With local government split across county councils, district councils and unitary authorities there needs to be a more streamlined approach, it suggests. At present, across most of England there are two tiers of local government, county and district, which share responsibility for council services. The proposals would scrap those tiers and take an approach seen in London and other metropolitan areas where one single structure takes charge of all services.

Ministers plan sweeping changes to local government as part of levelling up agenda, leaked paper reveals | msn.com

What would happen to Blackdown House, the new HQ of East Devon District Council?

As is often in these cases, the search is on to shoot the messenger – although insiders are saying that the leaked document was ‘only one of many’:

A draft of the levelling up white paper which sent shockwaves through the local government community last week is only one of several iterations of the white paper that have been produced, LGC understands. The version of the white paper which was leaked to the Independent caused a furore with its reported plans for mass organisation. The story, published on Friday, claimed the white paper contained plans to “radically alter” the local government system and replace it with a “single tier mayoral style system”.

But LGC understands that in the run up to the white paper being published, various versions of the paper containing different proposals have been drafted, rather than one single paper. These versions are currently doing the rounds of different government departments, giving officials and ministers the chance to comment on the ideas and make amendments. “They evolve until the final document is ready to be published,” a source within the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities told LGC.

Analysis: how contentious levelling up white paper draft came to be leaked | lgcplus.com

Here’s some non-insider response from the last couple of days:

From Nottingham:

“I will be speaking to council leaders across Nottinghamshire to work out a plan of action. The campaign to save our councils starts now.”

Ashfield District Council leader’s plea to county leader for local authority to be saved | hucknalldispatch.co.uk

From Left-foot Forward:

A draft levelling up white paper, seen by The Independent, reveals plans to replace local government with a single-tier mayoral system that is based on a model of a directly elected leader “over a well-defined economic geography.” Under the current system, there are two tiers of local government – county and district. Both share responsibility for council services.

However, the government’s plans are already facing a backlash, with warnings made that it will be a waste of money on “unnecessary bureaucracy”, which would be better spent on going directly to areas that need it the most.

Lowest funded councils join forces to call for ‘levelling up’ funding fix | leftfootforward.org

And finally, there’s the the bigger picture from the Devolution All-Party Parliamentary Group:

   
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