What is regional devolution?
The success of the Scottish National Party (SNP) in the recent election reinforced the Conservative’s focus on devolving powers to regions. This can be seen in George Osborne’s post-election speech where he proclaimed, “it is time to take control of your own affairs”.
By joining with neighbours, combined authorities can strike ‘city deals’ or ‘devo deals’ with central government, devolving powers from central government to the newly created authorities. These powers can include transport, planning, infrastructure and housing.
This has already been successfully deployed in Greater Manchester which controls a £1bn public budget and is expected to receive further powers over the coming year.
The deadline for regional groups to submit their deals for devolved power was Friday 4 September.
Who is applying?
Devolution is not exclusively for city groups, Osborne is also inviting, “towns and great counties” to take on increased powers without the need for a Mayor.
The increased opportunity for power and a fear of being left behind has seen nearly all authorities become part of regional bids. This can be seen in the helpful map from the Local Government Chronicle:
What could the effect be on housing?
The amount of control that may be given to each combined authority is still uncertain. Details of the proposals are also relatively unclear. Some regions seem to have been relatively bold, with reports of requests for control over Right to Buy receipts and retention of stamp duty funds. Others appear to have been broader with pledges to unlock local brownfield sites.
It is also clear that some proposals do not correspond with central government policies, so it will be interesting to see the extent to which power is devolved.
Access to housing and land is often governed by local issues so the devolution of powers has the potential to speed up developments and help ease the housing crisis. Which would be a win win for housing associations and builders alike.
The level of control and success of applications will be revealed by Osborne on Wednesday 25 November so watch this space!
By Craig Ross