Plant & Works Engineering
Industry calls for extension of Devolution Deals across the whole of England to boost levelling up agenda
Published:  13 May, 2024

Britain’s manufacturers are calling on the next Government to make rolling out Devolution Deals across the whole of England a key local growth priority in order to bring the benefits of devolution to areas currently left behind.

This should involve a more structured process which pulls together existing local authority and devolution legislation into one powerful devolution act, and include the introduction of US style ‘bond referendums’ to raise funds for regional infrastructure projects which are struggling to get national funding.

The call was made by Make UK in a new report, “For or against? The case for further devolution,” which shows that manufacturers have felt the transformational effect of devolution deals, and have benefitted greatly from existing devolution funding. However, companies felt that longer-term devolution plans would deliver more effective and lasting results for local business and growth.

Nearly 30% of manufacturers said that the area of skills should be further devolved to local decision makers to make sure the right training and skills were being prioritised while businesses also want to see a greater emphasis on local infrastructure development to help their businesses perform better. Almost a quarter (21%) of companies thought that longer-term devolution plans would deliver better results. Fiscal devolution remains lower on the agenda for manufacturers, but there is an increased desire to have the ability to fund locally important projects without the need for central government funding.

One recommendation from this report is for devolved areas in the UK to have the ability to hold referendums to raise money for specific projects. These “Bond Referendums” are commonplace across individual states in the US, where local ballots take place to allow voters to prioritise spending on a specific local priority without the federal treasury having to donate resources.

These could be used to fund capital equipment for local FE colleges and make training more relevant and up-to-date. There is also a wealth of local support for an extension of Manchester’s successful tram network, but funding is proving difficult. A local bond would allow funds to be raised for investment without recourse to Westminster.

Faye Skelton, Head of Policy Make UK said: “Devolution has been an obvious success story for manufacturers and should now be extended to bring the existing benefits to those areas of England which risk being left behind. This must start with a more streamlined and structured process which brings together the powers of Local Authorities and Devolution Deals into one Devolution Act.

“As part of this, Government should introduce US style ‘bond referendums’ which would hand powers to Mayoral Regions to raise funds locally for regional infrastructure projects without having to go cap in hand to Westminster."

There is, however, still some awareness work of devolution and its benefits to be done as some 46% of manufacturers were unsure if their companies were located in an area with a devolution deal.

Read the full report here: For or Against? The Case for Further Devolution | Make UK