House of Commons Library

Devolution to local government in England

Published Friday, November 24, 2017

This Commons Library briefing paper summarises the main developments regarding the process of devolution of powers to local government within England since 2014. It covers the devolution deals agreed between the Government and local areas up to July 2016, including the powers to be devolved, the procedures required for devolution to take place, and reactions to the policy from the local government and policy-making worlds.

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This note addresses the debate around devolution of power to local government in England. Local government is a devolved matter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Overview of devolution deals

The first ‘devolution deal’ was announced by the Government and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority in November 2014. In advance of the 2015 general election, further deals followed with Sheffield (December 2014) and West Yorkshire (March 2015). As of March 2016, devolution deals with twelve areas have been agreed.

Discussions have also taken place on further devolution to Greater London. Table 1 in the PDF sets out the details of the devolution deals agreed as of March 2016, including links where available. Details of the local authorities involved in each devolution deal area can be found in Appendix 2 of the PDF.

Greater Manchester

The Greater Manchester Agreement set out proposed new powers for the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA). A directly-elected mayor will be established for the whole Greater Manchester area. The first mayoral election will take place in 2017, the next in 2020, followed by four-yearly terms. The elected mayor will receive the following powers and resources:

  • A consolidated, multi-year transport budget
  • Responsibility for franchised bus services, railway stations, and ‘smart ticketing’ in Greater Manchester
  • A Housing Investment Fund of £300m over 10 years, making loans to housebuilders (and thus being self-sustaining over time)
  • The power to produce a statutory spatial strategy, equivalent to the power of the Mayor of London: this would be subject to unanimous approval by the ‘combined authority cabinet’ (i.e. the ten leaders of the combined authority’s member authorities)
  • Enhanced powers to raise and borrow funds;
  • Devolved business support budgets;
  • Power to restructure further education in Greater Manchester, plus control of the Apprenticeship Grant for Employers;
  • Joint commissioning, with the Department for Work and Pensions, of the next stage of the Work and Health Programme;
  • Planning the integration of health and social care;
  • The elected mayor will also become the Police and Crime Commissioner for Greater Manchester, and take over the regional provision of fire and waste disposal services.

Devolution deals in other localities

The devolution deals agreed to date can be characterised as consisting of a ‘menu with specials’. A number of items have been made available to most areas, but each deal also contains a few unique elements or ‘specials’ (typically consisting of commitments to explore future policy options).

The sections in the PDF outline the nature of the ‘menu’ powers that have been made available to most of these areas. The exact nature of the powers devolved can be seen in the deal documents.

The devolution deals agreed so far have many similarities in terms of powers to be devolved. The core powers devolved include the following:

  • Restructuring the further education system
  • Business support
  • The Work Programme
  • EU structural funds
  • Fiscal powers
  • Planning and land use

Further information

The Commons Library has also published notes on:


Commons Briefing papers SN07029

Author: Mark Sandford

Topics: Devolution, Local government

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