Tomorrow never knows. The Levelling Up white paper was due to be published next week but won’t now appear until early 2022.
Here, there and everywhere. If the leaks are to be believed, we may be in line for some radical reforms, indeed sounding much like proposals from the Centre for Cities that I referred to in my 25 September 2020 blog post The Devolution Dance: The Planning White Paper & Local Government Reorganisation, Neighbourhood Planning.
Ministers plan sweeping changes to local government as part of levelling up agenda, leaked paper reveals (Independent, 10 December 2021)
“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.”
“The plans proposed in the draft paper would mean a huge overhaul of local government, and either scrapping or merging England’s 181 district councils and 24 county councils.”
“The step towards single tier local government would need to be under way by 2023 in order to coincide with changes in funding for regions. A new Local Growth Funding Roadmap detailing how this will work will be released in 2022, and then enforced in 2023, according to the paper.”
“The document lays out 13 missions with which to “anchor” the agenda, which the prime minister has described as the central purpose of his administration, and all come with a 2030 deadline.”
“Several parts of the draft paper show that key decisions from the levelling up cabinet committee and the Treasury have yet to be signed off.”
Ministers examine shake-up of regional development in England (FT, 7 December 2021)
Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) appear to be for the chop.
American-style Governors could level up England (The Times, 4 December 2021)
Is the concept of a “governor” going to be any more attractive for local electorates than that of a Mayor?
“County deals” (see this Institute for Government explainer) seem to be the reported carrot/stick.
There is also, groan, the possibility of a “statutory levelling-up quango”.
For no-one. I reported in my 24 September 2021 blog post Levelling Up Is… on the BEIS Commons Committee’s 22 July 2021 report Post-pandemic economic growth: Levelling up. On 3 December 2021 the Government published its response, which, ahead of publication of the white paper, is largely unspecific.
I want to tell you. With interesting timing, the County Councils Network published on 8 December 2021 its report prepared with assistance from Catriona Riddell, the future of strategic planning in England: effective decision making and robust governance, with proposals for an accountable strategic planning body which would prepare a strategic growth plan and a strategic planning advisory body to test and advise as to whether its vision is being delivered.
She said she said. Even though she has admitted that she doesn’t like the Beatles, I’m delighted that Catriona has agreed to be our special clubhouse Planning Law Unplanned guest at 6pm this Tuesday 15 December 2021, which will be a great opportunity to see if all of this thinking can come together. Do we need to get back to strategic or at least county level planning, and in place of LEPs something more resembling the old RDAs? I would love you to join us, link to app here.
Got to get you into my life. Do also listen back to our planning enforcement chat last week, now available on replay. Given how the conversation ended up, yes of course we should have called it “Everybody’s got something to hide, except me and my monkey”.
Good day sunshine.
Simon Ricketts, 11 December 2021
Personal views, et cetera