Written by Jo Dancy

It’s fair to say yesterday’s General Election announcement came as a surprise to almost everyone at UK REiiF. With the timing going against what many pundits predicted, there was much chatter and speculation in Leeds about what the election will mean for development across the country.

To put it simply, an election will mean different things for different projects, with various nuances at play for each scheme. There isn’t one general rule for all projects in all places.

Get in touch with us to discuss how your project may be impacted by the General Election at info@kandaconsulting.co.uk

Despite the news, UK REiiF was still in full flow yesterday, with Wednesday living up to its reputation of being the busiest day of the conference. It was a full day of panels, roundtables, networking, and supporting our clients.

Throughout the conference, there have been some interesting discussions about devolution in the UK and what’s next for developed power.

It’s easy to forget now with a General Election in our sights, but earlier this month voters took part in the largest number of devolved elections in England to date, with the additional creation of the North East Mayoral Combined Authority, East Midlands Combined County Authority, and York and North Yorkshire Combined Authority.

By 2025, with the addition of combined authority deals with Hull and East Yorkshire, Greater Lincolnshire and Suffolk, some 57% of England’s population, 60% of the national economy and 42% of landmass will be covered by devolution.*

In the 2022 Levelling Up White Paper, the government promised that “every part of England that wants one” will have an expansive devolution deal backed by a funding settlement by 2030, but are we still on track and how is it working so far?

Much has been published by think tanks on how to build on existing successes of the early trailblazer combined authorities, how to learn from governance failures of others, and on the readiness of the rest of England’s local authorities to proceed where, in some cases, there is a danger of pushing more responsibility onto what is already a broken system.

Notwithstanding that the core cities-led combined authorities already established were likely an easier set up than mobilising various unions of the geographically and quality-diverse local authorities remaining will be, there is cross political party consensus for wider and deeper devolution and a keenness to see this continue, at pace, following the 4 July General Election. Whether or not Labour are supportive of devolution in the same form as the Conservatives though remains to be seen, and we’ll be looking to see more detail from Labour on this in the coming weeks.

Whilst critics forecast that it will take longer than one parliamentary term to see the 2022 Levelling Up white paper goals achieved, it is thought that we should expect to see serious progress before the 2030 deadline.

Whilst delivery might be slightly trickier, the demands of the think tanks are relatively simple:

  1. clarity on timetable/ framework for full completion;
  2. production of a refined devolution policy covering the powers on offer and criteria for decision-making;
  3. completion of deals with all remaining non-devolved large urban areas
  4. revisit/renegotiate existing deals where boundaries/ governance isn’t working, and
  5. extend the powers of existing mayors to deepen devolution and further boost positive economic/social outcomes.

A big challenge ahead. But for once, English communities, local authorities and government is largely pulling in the same direction!

If you’d like to discuss regional projects get in touch with Jo Dancy here: jo.dancy@kandaconsulting.co.uk

*Institute for Government statistics

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