This briefing sets out the headline announcements in the Government's Levelling Up White Paper, summarises elements of the 12 missions relevant to local councils and provides details of our improvement and support offer for areas looking to take forward a devolution deal.
On 2 February 2022 the Government published its long-awaited levelling policy paper Levelling Up the United Kingdom. This includes details of a new devolution framework, the establishment of a new independent data body and a new Levelling Up Advisory Council.
The White Paper also provides details of 12 new missions across four broad areas: boosting productivity and living standards by growing the private sector, especially in those places where they are lagging; spreading opportunities and improving public services, especially in those areas where they are weakest; restoring a sense of community, local pride and belonging, especially in those places where they have been lost; and, empowering local leaders and communities, especially in those places lacking local agency. It commits to further consultation on the metrics used to measure the success of these missions and to creating a statutory responsibility on Government to report on their progress.
The Government also published UK Shared Prosperity Fund: pre-launch guidance providing information regarding the aims of the fund and the delivery roles of local partners.
The White Paper promises a series of next steps: a comprehensive programme of engagement across the UK; consultation on missions and metrics and the devolution framework; the establishment of a new body focusing on local government data; rolling out Levelling Up Directors across the UK; simplifying growth funding; creating three sub-groups to support the levelling up advisory council; and introducing future legislation to create an obligation on the UK Government to publish an annual report on progress and to strengthen devolution legislation in England.
This briefing note has been prepared by the LGA and sets out the headline announcements in the White Paper, summarises elements of the 12 missions relevant to local councils and provides details of our improvement and support offer for local councils including our Devolution Hub which contains a wide range of support for local areas looking to take forward a devolution deal, and our interactive data platform LG Inform.
White Paper overview
Devolution framework: Chapter 2.3.3 (p138), chapter 3.5.1 (p234), table 2.3 (p140)
The White Paper sets out a new devolution framework for England. This extends devolution beyond metropolitan areas for the first time and sets out pathways to a devolution deal for every area of England that wants one. This framework is underpinned by four principles: effective leadership, sensible geography, flexibility and appropriate accountability. There will be a new accountability framework that will apply to all devolved institutions in England. This will include clear roles, metrics and scrutiny mechanisms, and aims to ensure local people can have confidence that devolution is leading to improvements.
Devolution in England will be extended, deepened and simplified. Devolution will be extended by inviting Cornwall; Derbyshire and Derby; Devon, Plymouth and Torbay; Durham; Hull and East Yorkshire; Leicestershire; Norfolk; Nottinghamshire and Nottingham; and Suffolk to start formal negotiations to agree new County Deals; agreeing a Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) with York and North Yorkshire and an expanded MCA deal for the North East; and confirming that other areas in similar situations to North Yorkshire and York (e.g. Cumbria) have the opportunity to consider a MCA deal.
Devolution will be deepened through opening negotiations for trailblazer deals with the West Midlands and Greater Manchester Combined Authorities; work with the MCAs, starting with these trailblazers to streamline the funding landscape for MCAs, and invite other MCAs and the GLA to bid for further powers through the devolution framework.
Devolution will be simplified through the new devolution framework, and by seeking to legislate to establish a new form of combined authority to be made up of upper-tier local authorities. This will provide a single, accountable institution across a functional economic area or whole county geography, and district councils can be non-constituent members. County councils would be expected to work closely with their district councils.
The devolution framework sets out a flexible, three level approach to devolution recognising that a one-size fits all model would not be suitable. The White Paper sets out the types of powers and functions that will be considered for each devolution level. Some powers may only be available to certain authorities or geographies, and there will be scope to negotiate further powers on a case-by-case basis. There may also be an option to change public sector administrative boundaries on a case-by-case basis to support devolution.
The three levels set out in the devolution framework are: Level 3 – a single institution or County Council with a directly elected mayor (DEM), across a functional economic area (FEA) or whole county area; Level 2 – A single institution or County Council without a DEM, across a FEA or whole county area; and Level 1 – Local authorities working together across a FEA or whole county area e.g. through a joint committee. Level 3 represents the Government’s preferred model of devolution, but they have been clear that this will not suit all areas at present, and that the framework will instead allow areas to deepen devolution at their own pace.
Level 3 areas will have access to the largest set of powers, including the ability to consolidate existing core local transport funding into a multi-year integrated settlement, devolution of locally-led brownfield funding, mayoral control of Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) functions where boundaries align and the ability to introduce a mayoral precept and supplement on business rates. Level 2 areas will have fewer, but still significant powers, including control of appropriate local transport functions, ability to introduce bus franchising, the ability to provide input into Local Skills Improvement Plans, and Homes England compulsory purchase powers. Level 1 areas will have access to three core powers: the ability to host Government functions best delivered at a strategic level including more than one authority, the opportunity to pool services at a strategic level, and the opportunity to adopt innovative local proposals to deliver action on climate change.
Local government reorganisation: Chapter 2.3.3 (p143)
The UK Government will not impose top-down restructuring of local government. Reorganisation will remain a locally-led avenue available where there is broad local support, but will not be a requirement for a devolution deal. The UK Government intends to follow an incremental approach, using existing legislation to work with areas which are seeking to establish reformed local governance structures.
Streamlining funding: Chapter 2.3.2 (p128)
The Government will set out a plan for streamlining the local growth funding landscape this year. The aims of this are to reduce the unnecessary proliferation of individual funding pots, streamlining bidding, ensuring that places have robust monitoring and evaluation plans to assess the impact of their investment and spending, and tailoring investment and delivery to the local landscape.
Improving public sector leadership: Chapter 2.3.2 (p132)
The White Paper announces a new Leadership College for Government, which will incorporate programmes currently delivered by the Civil Service Leadership Academic and the National Leadership Centre. This aims to reform leadership and management skills in the public sector, help build local leadership capacity, support efforts to empower local leaders and increase collaboration between and within branches of government. It will be based across three locations in the Midlands, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber.
Local Enterprise Partnerships: Chapter 2.3.3 (p146)
The Government is encouraging the integration of LEPs and their business boards into MCAs, the GLA and County Deals, where these exist. Where a devolution deal does not yet exist, LEPs will continue to play their role in supporting local businesses and the local economy. Where devolution deals cover part of a LEP, this will be looked at on a case by case basis. Further detail on this transition will be provided in writing to LEPs as soon as possible.
UK Shared Prosperity Fund: Chapter 2.3.2 (p128), chapter 3.3.2 (p198), chapter 3.4.1 (p217), see also pre-launch guidance
The Government published the pre-launch guidance for the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) through in conjunction with the Levelling Up White Paper. It reiterated that the UKSPF will be £2.6 billion allocated up to March 2025, and will be allocated to places rather than undertaking competition – something that the LGA has been calling for. There was confirmation that local government will be leading the fund, with the delivery geography set out in the list of lead authorities. The fund will support programmes under the priorities of communities and place; local businesses; and people and skills. Lead authorities will commence the development of Local Investment Plans with local partners from March 2022 to determine the priorities and outcomes for their local area. Details of allocations, the Multiply Programme and guidance for investment plans are expected soon. The Government are encouraging lead authorities to commence collaborating with local partners to develop ideas, and and will be hosting a webinar for English local authorities on 8 February 2022. An invitation has been sent to all chief executives.
12 National Missions: Chapter 2.3.1 (p119)
Central to the White Paper are 12 new missions which cover four broad areas: boosting productivity and living standards by growing the private sector, especially in those places where they are lagging; spreading opportunities and improving public services, especially in those areas where they are weakest; restoring a sense of community, local pride and belonging, especially in those places where they have been lost; and, empowering local leaders and communities, especially in those places lacking local agency. The timescale to achieve these missions is 2030 and they will be subject to periodic review by government.
Independent data body: Chapter 2.3.4 (p151)
The Government is establishing a new a new independent body in England focused on data, transparency and robust evidence. The objectives of this body will be to empower citizens with information about their local area, input into service design, strengthen local leaders’ knowledge of their services, enabling them to share best practice, increase central government’s understanding of local government, and enable sector support to be better tailored. The headquarters will be outside London, and the body will be co-designed with local government.
The Government is also putting in place a transformative data and analysis strategy at the subnational level and establishing a new Spatial Data Unit to drive forward the data transformation required in central government.
Levelling Up Cabinet Committee: Chapter 2.3.2 (p125)
The Levelling Up White Paper introduces a new Levelling Up Cabinet Committee, chaired by the Secretary of State. This will both embed levelling up across central government policy and work with local leaders to improve the clarity, consistency and coordination of policy.
Levelling Up Directors: Chapter 2.3.2 (p125)
The Government will introduce new Levelling Up Directors to join up policy at a local level. These directors will work to build local capacity, improve the evidence base for local decision-makers, bring strategic coherence to government intervention in places, form a bridge between local and central government, and act as champions for their places.
Levelling up in cross-departmental working: Chapter 2.3.2 (p125)
To ensure that levelling up missions are reflected across Government departments, a requirement for public bodies to have an objective of reducing geographic variations in the outcomes relevant to their business area is being established. There will also be reforms to the way the public sector procures goods and services, to cut red tape and refocus attention on outcomes, values and transparency. The UK Government will introduce a statutory obligation to report annually on progress towards meeting the Levelling Up missions.
Levelling Up Advisory Council: Chapter 2.3.5 (p156)
The Government is creating a Levelling Up Advisory Council. This will be charged with providing independent expert advice on matters relating to the design and delivery of levelling up. This will bring together a diverse, independent and expert group.
Future Legislation: Chapter 4.3 (p247)
The UK Government will bring forward legislation to put in statute some of the key pillars of levelling up to ensure this new framework is built on strong foundations.
The UK Government will explore provisions around: introducing an obligation for the UK Government to publish an annual report on delivery against the levelling up missions and strengthening devolution legislation in England in order to support the establishment of a new form of combined authority model to be made up of upper-tier local authorities only expand devolution to more places, deepen current devolution deals and enable the devolution process to be simpler and more transparent.
Key LGA messages from main press briefing
Levelling up is at the heart of what councils and combined authorities want for their communities.
It is positive to see devolution being extended beyond England’s city regions and further opportunities for Mayoral Combined Authorities.
The Government’s framework for devolution is an important step and is something that the LGA has long called for and it is good that the framework will apply to all local areas and will not impose a one-size-fits-all approach to governance. We are keen to go further and faster with other government departments so the whole of government is taking a ‘local first’ approach.
The launch of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, to be distributed via councils, is confirmation of their vital leadership role in bringing together local partners and we look forward to actively shaping this with government.
Local government has a very strong record of data transparency, including through our award-winning LG Inform data platform. We will work closely with government on the development of the new independent body relating to data transparency. This new organisation must add value and not duplicate the work of other bodies.
Councils want to work with the new Levelling Up Advisory Council and government on making sure that the role of local communities in delivering change and progress is evidenced well, including on the joined-up, sustainable funding settlement needed to empower councils across the country in support of these overall aims.
The Levelling Up White Paper sets out 12 national missions. The LGA has already stated that councils and combined authorities have a critical role to play in achieving them and must be the primary partner of Government.
The sections below highlight the LGA’s initial response to some of these proposals and identifies existing areas of council best practice.
1. By 2030, pay, employment and productivity will have risen in every area of the UK, with each containing a globally competitive city, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing. Chapter 3.2.1 (p160)
The White Paper sets out five elements to support this mission: improving the access of small and medium sized enterprises to finance, via the British Business Bank Regional Investment Funds announced at Spending Review 2021; unlocking institutional investment in infrastructure, by asking local government pension schemes to publish plans for increasing local investment; strengthening mobile investment and trade policy through a refreshed export strategy and eight new freeports; boosting adoption and diffusion through the recently released innovation strategy and help to grow programme; supporting manufacturing through a range of sector specific initiatives, such as the forthcoming food strategy.
In a recent report the LGA has set out how councils, through their role as planners and place shapers, can be instrumental in supporting microbusinesses.
We have also published research that demonstrates that while small and medium sized businesses are the lifeblood of our communities, in rural and coastal areas they can struggle to access suitable office space and a properly skilled workforce.
Councils also play a crucial part in attracting foreign direct investment and boosting local exports. They are ambitious to do more but have been hampered by fragmented policy initiatives and uncertain funding arrangements.
2. By 2030, domestic public investment in Research & Development outside the Greater South East will increase by at least 40 per cent and at least one third over the Spending Review period, with that additional government funding seeking to leverage at least twice as much private sector investment over the long term to stimulate innovation and productivity growth. Chapter 3.2.2 (p170)
The White Paper highlights a range of actions to support this mission: implementing the innovation strategy; taking forward the Spending Review 2021 commitment to increase public R&D spending to £20bn by 2025; publishing new subnational data on public R&D spending to support specific spatial targets for government departments e.g., BEIS will aim to invest at least 55 per cent of its R&D funding outside of the greater southeast by 2025 and DfT will trial zero-emissions road freight schemes across the UK.
Councils are unlikely to be lead research organisations but can often be a key partner in the collaboration in ICT, environmental projects and new transport technologies, with universities and research laboratories.
Working in collaboration with the Higher Education Funding Council for England, Universities UK and the NHS Confederation the LGA ran a two-year pilot programme called Leading Places that sought to strengthen the connection between advanced research, businesses and local communities, particularly in the areas of innovative growth and public service re-design.
3. By 2030, local public transport connectivity across the country will be significantly closer to the standards of London, with improved services, simpler fares and integrated ticketing. Chapter 3.2.3 (p176)
The White Paper identifies several actions focused on improving transport connectivity. It confirms some of the places that will receive funding to implement proposals in their Bus Service Improvement Plans (BSIPs). The quantum of funding and full list of Local Transport Authorities to receive it is yet to be decided with further discussions will being held over the next few weeks before final decisions are taken. As well as this, it affirms the provision to Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) of new powers of direction over Key Route Networks (KRNs) and exploring transferring control of taxi and private hire vehicle licensing to both combined authorities and all upper-tier authorities.
The White Paper confirms the current policy that bus franchising powers are automatically available to MCAs already – and therefore can be used by any new MCA created. It also reaffirms their policy from the National Bus Strategy that the Department for Transport will support other Local Transport Authorities which wish to access franchising powers and have the capability and intention to use them at pace to deliver improvements for passengers.
Councils’ immediate concern, highlighted in the LGA’s on the day press release, is the threat to local bus services as funding through the Bus Recovery Grant finishes at the end of March 2022. We have called on the Government to commit early to keeping the BRG going beyond March 2022, so that vital routes are not lost – possibly for good, and people can continue to keep faith in their local bus services.
4. By 2030, the UK will have nationwide gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage, with 5G coverage for the majority of the population. Chapter 3.2.4 (p183)
The White Paper sets out a new target for the rollout of gigabit-capable broadband and 4G coverage to the whole country by 2030 building on previous commitments to increase 4G coverage by 95 per cent, and rollout gigabit-capable broadband to at least 85 per cent of the country by 2025.
Councils have a vital role to play helping to improve local communities’ connectivity. The LGA’s on the day press release highlights it is positive that the Government has set this new target and, with the right funding and opportunity to work in partnership with government, councils could play a far greater role targeting communities most in need, driving demand stimulation and providing digital upskilling to support the rollout.
We are calling on government to empower councils to place a local digital champion in every local area to help facilitate delivery and support providers to install gigabit-capable broadband as quickly as possible. A local digital champion would be a central contact point for government and broadband providers to help problem solve deployment issues in the local area.
5. By 2030, the number of primary school children achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths will have significantly increased. In England, this will mean 90 per cent of children will achieve the expected standard, and the percentage of children meeting the expected standard in the worst performing areas will have increased by over a third. Chapter 3.3.1 (p187)
The White Paper proposes further school improvement through new Education Investment Areas, covering the third of council areas where educational attainment is weakest, plus any additional local authorities that contain either an existing Opportunity Area (OA) or were previously identified as having the highest potential for rapid improvement. The Department for Education will also consult on moving schools in these areas with successive ‘requires improvement’ Ofsted judgements into strong multi-academy trusts, “so that they can better access the support they need to improve”.
In response to the White Paper’s mission, it is the LGA’s view that education will be hugely important in levelling up the country, and it is logical to target investment at ‘Education Investment Areas’, to improve educational provision and raise attainment in those areas. However, the pandemic has hit the educational attainment of all pupils, particularly those from vulnerable backgrounds, and the impact of this will be felt for years to come. We are therefore calling on government to ensure that children are at the centre of the recovery from COVID-19 and utilise the expertise of councils to work towards our shared goal of ensuring pupils make up for lost learning and can provide holistic support, including for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities.
When considering whether to move schools with three successive ‘requires improvement’ Ofsted judgements into multi-academy trusts (MATs), we urge government to utilise the knowledge and expertise of councils in supporting schools to improve and allow councils to set up their own MATs. Academisation should be a choice for schools if they think it will improve their results. It is also unclear how the ‘requires improvement’ proposal applies to schools that are already part of MATs, or what happens if there are no strong MATs within an Education Investment Area.
6. By 2030, the number of people successfully completing high-quality skills training will have significantly increased in every area of the UK. In England, this will lead to 200,000 more people successfully completing high-quality skills training annually, driven by 80,000 more people completing courses in the lowest skilled areas. Chapter 3.3.2 (p193)
The White Paper sets out five elements to support this mission: putting local employers at the heart of provision; strengthening locally accessible institutions; ensuring all individuals have lifetime access to training; offering new opportunities to access high quality work and progress in the workplace; and providing employment support for disabled people and people with health conditions.
Wherever you live, everyone deserves access to a joined up, locally responsive employment and skills offer to help people increase their skills and progress in work without having to move away from home. The system in England is complex and difficult to join up for people, places and employers given there are 50 different national skills and employment programmes with separate objectives, eligibility, incentives, accountabilities, and providers operating across different areas.
The White Paper policy programme includes: a welcome increase in apprenticeship funding as we continue to call for a root and branch reform to the Apprenticeship Levy; a free Level 3 qualification which will be trialled to enable adults with an existing Level 3 qualification or higher who earn below the National Living Wage or are unemployed to access the offer; and an extension of the Work and Health Programme and expansion of the Intensive Personalised Employment Support programme to provide employment support for disabled people and people with health conditions.
The announcement of employment and skills pathfinders, which the LGA’s Work Local proposals have consistently called for are welcomed and we look forward to more detail and working with Government to improve the system now to help people move into work or training and accelerate devolution for all. Finally, the White Paper mentions investment in Local Skills Improvement Plans. Since these will cover technical skills only, we continue to call for adult skills funding to Level 2 be restored to 2010 levels and for Multiply to be localised as highlighted in the LGA’s Skills Bill briefing and the FE funding and accountability consultation. See mission 12 for UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
7. By 2030, the gap in Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) between local areas where it is highest and lowest will have narrowed, and by 2035 HLE will rise by 5 years. Chapter 3.3.3 (p200)
The White Paper establishes three components of this mission: improving public health; supporting people to change their food and diet; and tackling diagnostic backlogs.
In response to the mission and accompanying components, the LGA’s on the day press release stated that if we are to truly level up, the Government must focus on reducing poor mental and physical health outcomes as well as economic imbalances between regions. Health inequalities exist both between and within local authority areas, with almost 20 extra years of healthy life enjoyed by those in the most affluent areas compared with those in the most deprived areas.
The important interconnected determinants of mental and physical health that could affect the change necessary for a substantial improvement in healthy life expectancy all lie outside the health sector. Improvements in housing, education and employment as well as ensuring a health promoting environment give an overall improvement in the health and wellbeing of communities.
Councils are encouraged by the mission to address narrowing the gap in healthy life expectancy and reducing obesity. However, the failure to increase public health funding threatens to undermine the levelling up agenda and runs contrary to addressing the stark health inequalities exposed by the pandemic. We await the government’s strategy to tackle the core drivers of health inequalities through a new White Paper on Health Disparities.
8. By 2030, well-being will have improved in every area of the UK, with the gap between top performing and other areas closing. Chapter 3 (p159)
We agree that an overarching mission for levelling-up should be to focus on closing the gap in people’s wellbeing. We are pleased the White Paper recognises the many different health, social, economic and cultural factors that interact together to shape people’s mental and physical wellbeing. Local government is crucial to providing the place-based and person-centred leadership that will reduce inequalities and enable people to live happy and fulfilled lives.
Local authorities, through health and wellbeing boards, play a leading role in bringing together local political, professional, clinical and community leaders to develop a clear shared vision and strategy for improving health and wellbeing outcomes for their populations. Equally, the 42 integrated care systems covering all parts of England also have a key objective to improve population health outcomes and address health inequalities. It is crucial that these new system-level bodies work collaboratively with place-based health and wellbeing boards to build on and enhance existing strategies for improving health and wellbeing, rather than by-passing or duplicating them.
9. By 2030, pride in place, such as people’s satisfaction with their town centre and engagement in local culture and community, will have risen in every area of the UK, with the gap between the top performing and other areas closing. Chapter 3.4.1 (p207)
The White Paper identifies three elements to support this mission: regeneration, by making a transformational offer to 20 places in England, refocusing Home England to unblock barriers to regeneration, bringing forward further measures to support highstreets, introducing a new £30m parks fund and working to enhance access to nature through Environmental Land Management Schemes; communities, by supporting young people with a £560m National Youth Guarantee, announced in 2019 as the Youth Investment Fund, increasing the number of cadets in the UK to 60,000 by 2024, setting out a new Strategy for Community Spaces and Relationships, launching a review of neighbourhood governance and expanding the dormant assets scheme; and, culture heritage and sport by significantly increasing cultural investment outside of London.
We recognise the crucial role of high streets in supporting a sense of local pride for communities. Our recent publication, Creating resilient and revitalised high streets in the ‘new normal’, underlines the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the role councils can play in bringing them back to life.
The LGA’s on the day press release highlights how positive it is to see cultural and sporting engagement recognised alongside the value of heritage as a key driver of levelling up in the missions. Culture and sport can play an important role in restoring a sense of community and local pride. They also connect with the other missions such as education, where culture and sport have a significant role in addressing illiteracy and innumeracy. Councils spend over £1bn a year on cultural services and organisations, and a further £1.1 billion on sport and physical activity. The LGA’s Culture Hub provides a range of resources to support councils make the best of culture and sport for their communities.
Youth services also have a vital role to play in providing young people with safe places to go and trusted relationships with adults who can help them make positive life choices and avoid being drawn into negative situations. It is positive to see the inclusion of a National Youth Guarantee so that by 2025 every young person in England will have access to regular out of school activities, adventures away from home and opportunities to volunteer. The LGA has a wealth of resources to support councils and has a clear vision for youth work.
Finally, the LGA welcomes the importance placed on the role of civil society and social infrastructure throughout the White Paper. We would encourage the Government to work with the LGA to ensure the proposed Strategy for Community Spaces and Relationships can be translated into meaningful change for local communities.
10. By 2030, renters will have a secure path to ownership with the number of first-time buyers increasing in all areas; and the government’s ambition is for the number of non-decent rented homes to have fallen by 50%, with the biggest improvements in the lowest performing areas. Chapter 3.4.2 (p221)
The White Paper sets out that this mission is focused on: increasing home ownership; improving housing quality, by introducing a National Landlord Register, bringing forward a social housing regulation bill; and, improving the planning system the planning system.
Responding to the White Paper, the LGA highlights that councils want all tenants to be able to live in safe and secure, high-quality housing and recognise the need for measures to improve living conditions in the private rented sector. It is unacceptable that nearly 600,000 private rented homes in England, about 13 per cent, have been classed as a serious threat to health and safety, while nearly a quarter are non-decent. We have taken recent steps through the publication good practice guide for councils to improve the quality of the PRS across England.
It is also important that there is an upgrade to the Housing, Health and Safety Rating system (HHSRS) governing property conditions which are not understood by many landlords. Local authorities need better data with a national registration system of all landlords, and adequate funding to develop appropriate responses to the challenging nature and context of the private rented sector.
There is an urgent need to provide a better range of housing and lifestyle choices to meet the wide variety of circumstances, aspirations and needs of people as they age. It is positive that the White Paper has announced a Task Force that will look at ways to improve the quality and security of housing for older people. We look forward to local government playing a full part in the Task Force alongside government departments, housing providers, developers and older people, with appropriate links being made to the housing commitments in the Adult Social Care Reform White Paper.
11. By 2030, homicide, serious violence, and neighbourhood crime will have fallen, focused on the worst-affected areas. Chapter 3.4.3 (p22)
This mission is focused on creating safter neighbourhoods, by reforming the safe streets fund, bring forward plans for a National Spring Clean and publishing a new plan to tackle anti-social behaviour and quality of life issues.
Tackling serious violent crime is a key priority for councils, but law enforcement and criminal justice measures are only part of the response needed to tackle serious violent crime. A multi-agency partnership approach is required, working across Government departments and all agencies, including the police, health, charities and a range of local government services such as, education, social services and youth services.
To support local areas to tackle serious violence at its root, it is our view that Violence Reduction Units (VRUs) should also be funded on a long-term basis and be extended to the remaining 23 local areas, beyond the 18 already funded. We are keen to work with the government to ensure that the system response is one that recognises this and provides support to ensure young people can move away from offending behaviours, delivering long-term reductions in offending and re-offending.
We also know that anti-social behaviour can have a devastating impact on communities and individuals when it is not tackled. It is positive to see the inclusion of new measures and further funding packages which will strengthen the work of councils and multi-agency partners in tackling a range of community safety issues. However, it is essential to support children and young people who are involved in the youth justice system, whose offending behaviours often mask underlying vulnerabilities including early childhood trauma and neglect, school exclusion, poor mental health and growing up in poverty. We are keen to work with the government to ensure that the system response is one that recognises this and provides support to ensure young people can move away from offending behaviours, delivering long-term reductions in offending and re-offending.
The LGA is particularly pleased to see that the White Paper has recognised and responded to our calls for an extension of the Safer Streets Fund which will allow councils to continue investing in the resources they need to address crime and anti-social behaviour within their communities. To capitalise and enhance the work already undertaken, it would be helpful for previous recipients to be allowed to apply for further funding for projects.
12. By 2030, every part of England that wants one will have a devolution deal with powers at or approaching the highest level of devolution and a simplified, long-term funding settlement. Chapter 3.5.1 (p234)
The White Paper sets out that this mission is focused on: empowering local leaders, by rolling out a new programme of local devolution in England, introducing County Deals, providing more powers for existing mayors and implementing a new devolution framework; strengthening private sector-led partnerships; and streamlining growth funding through the Levelling Up Fund, the Towns Fund and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund.
It is positive to see devolution being extended beyond England’s city regions with new deals in: Cornwall; Derbyshire and Derby; Devon, Plymouth and Torbay; Durham; Hull and East Yorkshire; Leicestershire; Norfolk; Nottinghamshire and Notting; and Suffolk. We are also encouraged by the proposal to deepen devolution through trailblazer deals in Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.
This announcement reflects policies called for in the Devolution APPG inquiry into ‘Levelling Up Devo’, supported by the LGA. This recommended that Government should work with local government to set out a National Devolution Baseline for England, including a list of new powers available to every council, as well as further powers which are available subject to clear eligibility requirements.
The Government’s framework for devolution is an important step and is something that the LGA has long called for. It is good that the framework will apply to all local areas and will not impose a one-size-fits-all approach to governance. We are keen to go further and faster with other government departments so the whole of government is taking a ‘local first’ approach.
We note that the outline list of functions that can be included in devolution deals does not include devolution of NHS functions or resources, and that the white paper states that the forthcoming Integration White Paper will set out plans for health and social care integration in early 2022.
Whatever the proposals in the Integration White Paper, it will be important for all levels of local government and the NHS to work together to ensure that strategies for joining up health, care and public health are aligned to the wider objectives of improving health and wellbeing outcomes and addressing health inequalities.
We welcome the announcement in the UKSPF pre-launch guidance that councils and combined authorities will lead the fund. The recognition of local leadership as one of the objectives of the fund is confirmation of their vital role in bringing together local partners. It will give them greater certainty and freedom to run local programmes that respond to local need and can have a real impact on tackling inequalities and levelling up opportunities, such as boosting employment and skills, supporting local businesses and achieving net zero. We look forward to actively shaping this with government.
The Government repeats the commitment they made in the 2022/23 local government finance settlement to base funding allocations for councils on an up-to-date assessment of their needs and resources. The data used to assess this has not been updated in a number of years, with some dating back as far as 2000. Over the coming months, the UK Government will work closely with the sector and other stakeholders to update this and to look at the challenges and opportunities facing the local government sector before consulting on any potential changes. As part of this, the UK Government will look at options to support local authorities through transitional protection. One-of grant funding provided in the Local Government Finance Settlement in 2022/23 will be excluded from potential transitional protections.
In response to the White Paper, we continue to call on Government to commit to the Fair Funding Review, reviewing both the formulas and the underlying data used for the assessment of relative needs and resources. We welcome the Government's intention to engage with the sector and consult on potential future changes to the system. This process should be as open and transparent as possible. Transitional mechanisms attached to the outcome of the review should provide sufficient funding to ensure no council experiences a loss of income.
Alongside the upcoming business rates revaluation in April 2023, the UK Government will explore with the Combined Authorities further flexibilities to enable them to raise their own funding through the business rates system to fund local priorities, whilst also considering the impacts on business. We expect to discuss this further with DLUHC officials in the context of discussions on the revaluation.
Proposed Independent Data Body and Levelling Up Directors
The Levelling Up White Paper proposes the creation of an independent data body to provide transparency on local government performance. Local government has a very strong record of data transparency, including through our award-winning LG Inform data platform which enables residents and leaders to compare information about councils. The LGA will work closely with government on the development of the new independent body relating to data transparency. This new organisation must add value and not duplicate the work of other bodies.
The White Paper confirms the introduction of Levelling Up Directors for each region. It will be important that the primary focus of levelling up directors is to enable local government devolution by addressing potential policy and funding barriers within central government. Councils, working collaboratively, must continue to have the primary role in catalysing local change and identifying capacity and capability issues, as councils are directly accountable to their local electorates.
Taken together, these proposals must enhance rather than limit local ambition by adding value and avoiding duplication of activity, to ensure councils can focus on their leading role in levelling up all areas.
LGA improvement support for Levelling Up
The Levelling Up White Paper proposes nine new devolution deals, and the option of a devolution deal to any part of the county that wants one. The LGA continues to provide wide ranging sector support to those areas taking forward devolution deals – please contact your principal adviser in the first instance.
Our Devolution Hub has a range of resources to help areas through the process of a devolution deal or thinking about what it would mean for your local area. This includes:
Devolution explainer video: This video explains in one minute what devolution is and what it means for local people. This resource can be used by council communication teams on websites or social media to communicate with residents about devolution and new devolution deals.
Devolution deal to delivery guide: This report guide looks at the experiences of combined authority and sets out lessons learned for developing a devolution deal for areas without a combined authority. It includes four questions for places without a combined authority to explore when thinking about seeking a devolution deal.
Lessons learned in communicating devolution: This report, which is a part of our wider devolution communications toolkit, brings together qualitative research and includes key principles to consider around communicating about devolution.
The drivers of collaboration: This report shares results from our research into the factors driving collaboration between county and district councils. The five case studies on collaboration provide learning points on areas in which county and district councils can provide joint responses and develop working relationships.
Local service delivery and place-shaping: This document provides a framework for principal councils looking to support parish and town councils in increased involvement of local service delivery. It provides information and principles on building trust, a toolkit for implementation and other factors that support the context of a partnership, with case studies illustrating practical application.
Devolution register: This resource provides an overview of the powers and responsibilities included in existing devolution deals. The register may prove of particular use for areas planning future negotiations on devolution.
Engaging citizens in devolution: This set of online resources focuses on approaches that could be used by areas hoping to initiate wider participation in developing and implementing devolution deals. There are supporting materials for principles on civic engagement that can be used in the development and implementation stages.
Building more inclusive economies: This report examines key areas of inclusive economies and where local government intervenes in them. The contribution of different councils informs what actions can be taken to pursue inclusive growth at the start of engagement on the economic agenda, where it is a clear priority and those at a stage who want to expand their work.
The future of non-metropolitan England: This final report builds on the interim report shared in the 2018 LGA Annual conference, with a focus on opportunity areas for councils to deliver growth and recognising local place and people. There are a set of policy proposals focused on developing prosperity, with experiences from rural and non-metropolitan England.
Levelling Up Hub
Our Levelling Up Hub sets out key priorities for levelling up, the LGA’s full responses to the Levelling Up White Paper and provides resources including new publications, our “Forget What You Think You Know… about levelling up” podcast and information about the Levelling Up Local Inquiry.
Our LG Inform interactive data platform is already contributing to the sector’s very strong record of data transparency, and last year was ‘highly commended’ in the Civil Service’s ‘Analysis in Government Awards’. It brings into one place over 9,000 data items about councils and their areas, from a wide range of sources, which residents and businesses can access. The public can compare their own council to others quickly and easily, in an accessible format such as charts and maps. With over 1 million page views last year, LG Inform gives the public access to up-to-date data about council performance, outcomes and expenditure; and many councils use it to keep their own dashboards and reports updated, thereby releasing resources to analyse and act on the data.